Yoon says South Korea, U.S. discussing exercises using nuclear assets
The Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted Yoon as saying that the joint planning and exercises would be aimed at more effective implementation of US “extended deterrence”.
The term means the ability of the US military, particularly its nuclear forces, to deter attacks on US allies.
“Nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but planning, information sharing, exercises and training should be conducted jointly by South Korea and the United States,” he said. Yoon, adding that Washington is also “quite positive” about the idea.
Yoon’s remarks came a day after North Korea’s state media reported that its leader Kim Jong Un called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and an “exponential increase” of -the country’s nuclear arsenal to counter US-led threats amid rising tensions between the rivals. Koreans.
The North’s race to advance its nuclear and missile programs has renewed the debate over South Korea’s own nuclear arsenal, but Yoon said maintaining the Non-Proliferation Treaty of Nuclear Weapons remained important.
At a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last week, Kim said South Korea had now become the North’s “undisputed enemy” and had unveiled new military targets, hinting at a year another of intensive weapons and stress testing.
Inter-Korean ties have long been strained but have become even more strained since Yoon took office in May.
On Sunday, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast, in a rare weapons test late at night, on New Year’s Day, after three ballistic missiles launched on Saturday, capping a year marked by a record number of missile tests.
Yoon’s comments on the nuclear drills are the latest demonstration of his tough stance on North Korea. He urged the military to prepare for war with “massive” capability after North Korean drones crossed into the South last week.
Analysts said tensions could worsen.
“This year could be a year of crisis with military tension on the Korean peninsula going beyond what it was in 2017,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, referring to the days of “fire and fury” under the Trump administration.
“North Korea’s hardline stance… and aggressive weapons development when met with joint South Korean-US exercises and a proportionate response could raise tensions in blow, and we cannot rule out what is similar to a regional conflict when both sides have a misunderstanding of the situation,” Hong said.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
By Soo-hyang Choi