President Yoon Suk Yeol said South Korea and the US have elevated their alliance to “nuclear-based,” as he praised a deal struck with Washington on the deployment of America’s atomic arsenal to deter North Korea.
Yoon said at a speech Tuesday to mark South Korea’s Memorial Day, that the so-called Washington Declaration he reached at a White House summit with President Joe Biden in April “dramatically enhances the extended deterrence capabilities of US nuclear assets.”
“The US-South Korea alliance has now been elevated to a nuclear-based alliance,” he added. The deal gives South Korea a greater say in how America deploys its nuclear umbrella and provides assurances it would be used to retaliate against a North Korean strike. But the ultimate decision on the use of nuclear weapons still remains with the US.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has rattled regional security in recent years by rolling out new missiles that can deliver nuclear strikes to all of South Korea, which hosts about 28,000 US military personnel, and increasing threats to unleash his arsenal in response to joint US-South Korean military drills.
The exercises have been restored under Yoon to levels not seen in more than five years when Yoon’s predecessor and former US President Donald Trump scaled them down, or suspended drills, in their attempts at rapprochement with Pyongyang, which failed in reducing Kim’s atomic arsenal.