Yoon says South Korea, U.S. discussing exercises using nuclear assets

SEOUL, Jan 2 (Reuters) – South Korea and the United States are discussing possible joint planning and exercises using U.S. nuclear assets amid growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said. in an interview with the newspaper.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted Yoon as saying that the joint planning and exercises will be aimed at making the US’s “extended deterrence” more effective.

The term refers to 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 done jointly by South Korea and the United States,” Yun said, adding that Washington was “very positive” about the idea. ” he added.

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Yoon’s statement came a day after North Korea’s state media reported that its leader, Kim Jong-un, had called for an “exponential increase” in the country’s nuclear arsenal to develop new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and counter US-led threats. Koreans.

North Korea’s race to advance its nuclear and missile programs has renewed controversy over South Korea’s nuclear weapons, but Yoon said maintaining the NPT remains important.

At a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last week, Kim said South Korea had now become the North’s “definite enemy” and had advanced new military goals, hinting at another year of intense weapons tests and tensions.

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Inter-Korean ties have long been strained, but have worsened since Yun took office in May.

North Korea on Sunday fired a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast in a rare New Year’s Eve weapons test, following three ballistic missile launches on Saturday, capping a year with a record number of missile tests.

Yun’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 “very large” capabilities after North Korean drones crossed into the South last week.

Analysts say tensions could escalate.

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“This year may be a year of crisis, with military tensions on the Korean Peninsula even higher than in 2017,” said Hong Min, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, referring to the days of “fire and war”. outrage” under the Trump administration.

“North Korea’s assertive stance… and aggressive weapons development, when met with South Korea-US joint exercises and a proportionate response, could instantly escalate tensions and negate any semblance of a regional conflict when the two sides are at loggerheads.” we can’t. about the situation,” Hong said.

Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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