In order to confront North Korea’s expanding nuclear and missile programmes, South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol has stated that Seoul and Washington are exploring joint exercises involving US nuclear assets.
Yoon claimed in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper that the United States’ previous “nuclear umbrella” and “extended deterrence” were insufficient to guarantee South Koreans.
He was referring to the US military’s capability to prevent attacks on its allies, notably its nuclear forces.
It’s tough to persuade our people with simply that, he added. “What we term prolonged deterrence was also the US telling us not to worry because it will take care of everything.” The US government is aware of that to some extent as well.
Seoul wants to participate in the operation of US nuclear forces, he said, in order to counter North Korea’s nuclear threats.
Yoon said, adding that Washington is also “very pleased” about the notion, “The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but planning, information sharing, exercises, and training should be jointly done by South Korea and the United States.”
Yoon’s comments came a day after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, reportedly called for the creation of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and a “exponential growth” of the country’s nuclear arsenal in order to combat what he described as hostility from the US and South Korea.
Additionally, Kim unveiled new military objectives and declared South Korea to be his nation’s “undoubted enemy” during a meeting of the governing Workers Party last week, alluding to another year of intense weapons testing and conflict.
Following the launch of three ballistic missiles the day before, North Korea conducted a rare late-night New Year’s Day weapons test on Sunday, ending a year that saw a record number of missile tests.
A majority of South Koreans favour the development of a domestic nuclear weapons programme, but Yoon said that maintaining the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained important. North Korea’s race to advance its nuclear and missile programmes has reignited debate over South Korea’s own nuclear armaments.
Inter-Korean relations have always been tense, but since Yoon took office in May, they have gotten significantly worse.
Yoon’s remarks regarding the nuclear exercises are the most recent instance of him taking a firm stance towards North Korea.
After North Korean drones entered South Korea last week, he advised the military to get ready for a “overwhelming” conflict.
The tensions may grow, according to analysts.
According to Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, “this year could be a year of crisis with military tension on the Korean peninsula going beyond what it was like in 2017,” referring to the period of “fire and fury” under the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
“North Korea’s hardline stance… and aggressive weapons development when met with joint exercises between South Korea and the US and a proportional response could raise the tension in a flash, and we cannot rule out what’s similar to a regional conflict when the two sides have a misunderstanding of the situation,” Hong said.