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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on April 25)

All News 06:56 April 25, 2023

Stipulate the deterrence in the document

President Yoon Suk Yeol has left Seoul for Washington for a seven-day state visit to the United States. His trip carries great significance as it marks the 70th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty our founding president Syngman Rhee struggled to strike with the U.S. in 1953 after the Korean War. But given the deepening security concerns about North Korean nuclear missiles coupled with the tense U.S.-China rivalry, the president must be heavy-shouldered.

Many events to celebrate the seven-decade alliance await President Yoon in the U.S., including a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden and an address at the joint session of the U.S. Congress. But Yoon must bring at least one thing back home — reliable countermeasures to defend the country and people against the North's missile attacks.

President Yoon must first clear growing suspicions over the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In a recent poll, 76.6 percent of South Koreans supported their own nuclear armaments, which reflects a critical lack of their trust in the nuclear deterrence.

Existing countermeasures against nuclear threats from North Korea can hardly ease the growing security concerns. North Korea's nuclear capability has advanced to the level even U.S. security officials accept. China used coarse language after Yoon's remarks about the Taiwan Strait and Russia blackmailed South Korea after Yoon's comment about weapons support for Ukraine.

The 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance between North Korea and China mandates an automatic intervention by either side if the other side is attacked. The Mutual Defense Treaty between South Korea and the U.S. does not have such a clause. The intervention also requires a Congressional approval, which means that if North Korea launches a surprise attack, the allies could miss the timing to respond.

South Korea and America have been discussing effective measures to raise the trust in the extended deterrence until the summit on Wednesday. If our nuclear development, the redeployment of U.S. tactical weapons, and our reprocessing of the spent fuel are difficult to achieve, our president must find alternatives.

One of them is to stipulate a nuclear retaliation by the U.S. in case the North launches nuclear attacks on the South. That will be considerable progress from the past. The two sides are discussing the specification of the deployment of U.S. strategic assets like B-52 bombers and B-1B Lancers in the joint document if South Korea requests the deployment. We hope they present a tangible solution through close coordination till the last minute.

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