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Biden, South Korea’s Yoon Issue ‘Extended Deterrence’ Pledge Aimed at North Korea

US and South Korea Reaffirm Treaty, Shift to Nuclear Deterrence Against North Korea

The United States has failed to convince North Korea to denuclearize, but a new deal reaffirming a 70-year treaty will prevent South Korea from building its own nuclear arsenal. This shift from “denuclearization” to “nuclear deterrence” was the key distinction in the “Washington Declaration” unveiled by US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. The declaration acknowledges that the 30-year effort to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons has failed and outlines a suite of “extended deterrence” measures the United States and South Korea will take to counter North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling.

US Nuclear Assets to Have More Visible Presence in the Region

The revised treaty spells out that “extended deterrence” means a “more visible” presence of US nuclear assets in the region in a “regular deployment of strategic assets,” which will include the first South Korean port visits of the US Navy 7th Fleet’s “boomers” in four decades. International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow Rick Fisher said the commitment to move nuclear assets in and out of the region on deployments is not the same thing as putting them in North Korea’s face across the 38th parallel, which separates the two countries.

South Korea to Participate in US Strategic Planning

The declaration strengthens joint training exercises and simulation activities to improve US-South Korea deterrence in “defending against [North Korean] threats, including by better integrating [South Korean] conventional assets into our strategic plan.” The agreement creates a US-South Korean consultative group to serve as a “regular bilateral dialogue mechanism” that will “reaffirm [the United States’] commitment to make every effort to consult with [South Korea] in potential nuclear crises.”

‘Visibility’ Also to Assuage South Korean Fears

The “extended deterrence” measures are designed not only to be more visible to Kim, but also to the South Korean public, which has been rattled by North Korea’s intensifying missile tests and threatening rhetoric. South Korea, which abandoned its nuclear weapons development program in the 1960s, joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975. But increasingly, South Koreans prefer that the nation build its own nuclear arsenal. The “extended deterrence” in the Washington Declaration should assuage some of that agitation. “Any concerns Koreans have about nuclear weapons will be relieved, I believe,” said President Yoon.

Biden said the declaration reaffirms the United States’ “iron-clad commitment” to “countering North Korea threats and blatant violations of US sanctions,” though he added that the United States will continue to “seek a diplomatic breakthrough to bolster stability, [to] reduce the threat of proliferation” on the Korean peninsula.



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