According to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Seoul and Washington are exploring collaborative planning and exercises utilizing US nuclear capabilities to confront escalating threats from the nuclear-armed North.
Yoon claimed that the United States’ pre-existing “nuclear umbrella” and “extended deterrence” were insufficient to reassure South Koreans in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper that was published on Monday.
“The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but the planning, information sharing, exercises and training must be done jointly by South Korea and the United States,” Yoon said, adding that the US was “quite positive” about the idea.
His comments came a day after the North’s state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had called for an “exponential” increase in his country’s nuclear arsenal and new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to counter what it termed US and South Korean hostility.
Nearly every month in 2022 saw North Korea test weapons that violated restrictions, including its most sophisticated ICBM launch.
It conducted an unusual early morning launch on Sunday to top off a record-breaking year of launches by launching three short-range ballistic missiles early on Saturday.
Under the hawkish Yoon, South Korea has increased bilateral military exercises with the US, which had been reduced during the pandemic or put on hold for his predecessor’s disastrous diplomatic efforts with the North.
Since talks collapsed in 2019, Kim has doubled down on his banned weapons programmes, and Seoul and Washington have warned for months that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.