US Offers South Korea On Its Nuclear Planning Amid Rising North Korea Threats

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U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

US to Provide South Korea with Nuclear Planning Insight and Deploy Ballistic-Missile Submarine in Show of Force

WASHINGTON DC – The United States has promised to provide South Korea with more insight into its nuclear planning to deal with any conflict that may arise with North Korea. The announcement came following White House talks between South Korean leader Yoon Suk Yeol and US President Joe Biden, where issues such as North Korea, semiconductor chips and trade, and the Ukraine war were discussed.

As North Korea continues to build up its arsenal of missiles and bombs, there is growing concern about how the US would respond to any potential attack. With South Korean opinion polls showing a majority in favour of acquiring their own nuclear bombs, the US is opposed to such a move. Instead, under a new “Washington Declaration,” the US will give Seoul detailed insights into, and a voice in, US contingency planning to deter and respond to any nuclear incident in the region through a US-ROK Nuclear Consultative Group.

As part of the agreement, Washington will also deploy a ballistic-missile submarine to South Korea in a show of force. However, Biden made it clear that no US nuclear weapons would be stationed on South Korean territory.

The agreed steps are seen as falling short of what some in South Korea have called for and are unlikely to persuade North Korea off its current course of WMD development and testing or to quiet the debate inside South Korea about its own nuclear future.

U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol look on as members of the U.S. military parade during an official White House State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A Nuclear South Korea?

Despite this, the increased involvement of Seoul in nuclear deliberations should allow Yoon to argue to his domestic audience that Washington is taking Seoul’s concerns seriously. Duyeon Kim, an analyst with the Center for a New American Security, called the Washington Declaration “a big win for the alliance and especially for South Korea.”

The move has been largely seen as a fig leaf to dissuade South Korea from going nuclear, according to Sue Mi Terry of the Wilson Center think tank. Nonetheless, the US officials have stressed that no US nuclear weapons would be returned to the peninsula, and South Korea would continue not to have control over the US nuclear arsenal.

The joint statement released by the two leaders stressed the importance of preserving stability in the Taiwan Strait and opposed “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific, including through unlawful maritime claims, the militarization of reclaimed features, and coercive activities.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee attend an official State Dinner in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

In addition to discussing tensions between China and Taiwan and Chinese military activities in the South China Sea, the summit also produced agreements on cyber security, electric vehicles and batteries, quantum technology, foreign assistance and economic investment.

The meeting between Yoon and Biden was only the second state visit Biden has hosted since taking office two years ago, with the first being France’s president. The two leaders also attended a glittering dinner catered by a chef whose mother emigrated from Korea, and Hollywood star Angelina Jolie was among the guests.

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In conclusion, the US pledge to give South Korea more insight into its nuclear planning has been seen as a big win for the alliance and especially for South Korea. While the move is unlikely to persuade North Korea off its current course of WMD development and testing, it will enable Yoon to argue to his domestic audience that Washington is taking Seoul’s concerns seriously. As tensions continue to rise in the Indo-Pacific region, it is essential that the US and its allies work together to preserve stability and prevent any unilateral attempts to change the status quo. – Reuters