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Yoon says S. Korea, U.S. in talks over joint nuclear exercises

All News 09:56 January 02, 2023

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol has said South Korea is in talks with the United States to carry out joint planning and joint exercises involving U.S. nuclear forces to counter North Korea's nuclear threats.

In an interview with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper published Monday, Yoon said the idea of the U.S. providing a nuclear umbrella or extended deterrence to South Korea is not enough to reassure the South Korean public.

The interview was published a day after North Korean state media reported leader Kim Jong-un called for "an exponential increase" of his country's nuclear arsenal, while calling South Korea "our undoubted enemy."

President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a New Year's address from the presidential office in Seoul on Jan. 1, 2023, in this photo provided by his office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a New Year's address from the presidential office in Seoul on Jan. 1, 2023, in this photo provided by his office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"In the past, the concept of a nuclear umbrella was preparation against the Soviet Union and China before North Korea developed nuclear weapons. What we call extended deterrence was also the U.S. telling us not to worry because it will take care of everything, but now, it's difficult to convince our people with just that," he said. "The U.S. government also understands that to some degree."

To better respond to the North Korean nuclear threat, Seoul is hoping to take part in the operation of U.S. nuclear forces, he said.

"Now for effective extended deterrence, we're in talks with the U.S. about the concept of joint planning and joint exercises in terms of nuclear capabilities, and the U.S. is quite positive about it," Yoon said.

"The nuclear weapons belong to the U.S., but the planning, information sharing, exercises and training should be carried out jointly by South Korea and the U.S. In the sense that South Korea and the U.S. are jointly involved, this is tremendous progress from the previous concept of extended deterrence," he added.

When asked if the discussions could lead to a South Korean version of nuclear sharing, Yoon expressed his reservations.

"The U.S. is uncomfortable with the word nuclear sharing," he said. "Instead, if we develop this to a concept where South Korea and the U.S. jointly carry out not only planning for the operation of nuclear forces, but also exercises, training and operations, based on shared information, that will in effect be an effective measure that is as good as nuclear sharing."

On whether he has plans to seek a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Yoon said there was no doubt.

"But I think the people are a little fed up with summits that are for show only," he said. "We have to start with dialogue on humanitarian issues, and open the door to contact and dialogue between South and North. We have to set a direction by having a certain amount of discussions on both countries' agendas."

Yoon added that, while there is no reason to reject a summit, such prior discussions have to take place in order to produce a useful outcome at the summit, and share it with the nation and neighboring countries.


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