SEOUL/Washington, Jan 3 (Reuters) – South Korea and the United States are discussing joint planning and implementation of US nuclear operations to counter North Korea and hope to hold a table-top exercise soon, officials said. from both sides on Tuesday.
The plan came amid South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s push to strengthen America’s extended deterrence – the ability of the US military, particularly its nuclear forces, to deter attacks on its allies – since he took office in May , in light of emerging North Korean threats.
In a newspaper interview released Monday, Yoon said the allies are discussing joint planning and nuclear exercises and that would help clear doubts about the extended deterrence, and the existing concept of “not being sure” of the Koreans. South.
“In order to respond to North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the two countries are discussing ways to share information on the operation of nuclear assets owned by the United States, and to jointly plan and execute them accordingly,” press secretary Yoon, Kim Eun-hye, said in a statement.
A senior US administration official said the two sides are looking at enhanced intelligence sharing, joint contingency planning and a tabled exercise eventually following a request from their presidents following a meeting in Cambodia in November to explore ways to address North Korean threats.
But the official noted that regular nuclear exercises would be “extremely difficult” because South Korea is not a nuclear power, echoing comments from US President Joe Biden that the allies were not discussing such activities. .
“This will be done in a variety of ways, including as President Yoon said, through improved information sharing, joint planning and expanding the range of events we plan, as well as training, and ultimately the idea of to. table exercise,” the official told Reuters.
The timing of the proposed board exercises has not been finalized, but they would take place “in the not-too-distant future” and cover scenarios including nuclear scenarios, the official said.
“The idea is also to try to make sure that we are able to fully consider the range of possibilities based on the capabilities of the DPRK that they have demonstrated, as well as their statements,” the official said, using his name official of North Korea. , Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said in a statement that the United States is committed to providing extended deterrence, and that the allies are working on “an effective and coordinated response to a range of situations, including nuclear use by North Korea.”
When asked about the tabletop exercises, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry said talks were underway but declined to provide details.
The two countries have revived consultations on extended deterrence this year after a year-long hiatus amid North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities.
Pyongyang has described South Korea as an “undeniable enemy” and vowed to beef up its nuclear arsenal this year, after firing a record number of missiles in 2022 and stoking tensions by launching drones into the South in Christmas.
“The United States’ countermeasures have not kept up with the North’s advanced nuclear programs, and the extended deterrence strategy is no different from when its nuclear capabilities were insignificant and weaker,” said Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Institute Asan policies. Studies in Seoul.
But Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University, said in the comment from Biden, who has the sole authority to authorize the use of US nuclear weapons, that America is reluctant to share nuclear operations, given their sensitivity and their security concerns.
“Given the growing voices of tactical nuclear weapons, Washington could try to reassurance and send more nuclear assets when we want, but they are unlikely to fully give in to President Yoon’s push for block longer,” Kim said.
Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Additional reporting by Simon Lewis in Washington; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Gerry Doyle
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