The U.S. and South Korea are discussing ways to cooperate on U.S. nuclear operations amid a perceived need to bolster deterrence against a rising North Korea, U.S. and South Korean officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
Confirmation of the plans follows South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol’s calls for “war preparations” with “overwhelming” capabilities published in a local newspaper Monday, where he mentioned plans to conduct joint nuclear and information sharing exercises, according to Reuters. Both countries see a need to reinforce “extended deterrence” as North Korea escalates military buildup and threatens Seoul’s sovereignty, spurring the need for cooperation on nuclear issues, the outlet reported.
“The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but planning, information sharing, exercises and training should be jointly conducted by South Korea and the United States,” Yoon told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper on Monday, according to Reuters.
President Joe Biden denied the two countries planned to conduct joint nuclear exercises, and a senior administration official told Reuters doing so would be “extremely difficult” due to South Korea’s lack of nuclear capabilities.
However, teams from the U.S. and South Korea are discussing plans to conduct tabletop exercises and expand information sharing in preparation for a possible Pyongyang contingency, a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Following their meeting in Phnom Penh, President Biden and President Yoon tasked their teams to plan for an effective coordinated response to a range of scenarios, including nuclear use by North Korea. That is what the teams are working on,” the spokesperson said.
It was not clear to what stage discussions had evolved or when the plans would go into effect, but an administration official told Reuters they would take place “in the not-too-distant future.”
“The idea is to also try and make sure that we’re able to fully think through the range of possibilities based on the DPRK capabilities which they’ve demonstrated, as well as their statements,” the official told Reuters, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea’s recent statements branding South Korea as an “undoubted enemy” and recent actions, such as sending a sortie of spy drones across the heavily fortified border to South Korea and launching a historic number of missile tests, including missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, have caused increasing concern, a senior adminsitration official told the DCNF.
‘The United States is fully committed to our alliance with the ROK and providing extended deterrence through the full range of U.S. defense capabilities,” the NSC spokesperson told the DCNF.
Yoon said the concept of extended deterrence, which relies on U.S. conventional and nuclear military capabilities to frighten adversaries away from attacking U.S. allies, was “falling short of convincing” South Koreans, according to Reuters.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed on Sunday to pursue “overwhelming military power,” develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile and expand the country’s nuclear arsenal, Reuters reported.
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