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South Korea, US Discuss Nuclear Assets Over Pyongyang Missile Threats

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South Korea, US Discuss Nuclear Assets Over Pyongyang Missile Threats

In the face of North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats, South Korea and the US are discussing possible joint planning and exercises involving US nuclear assets, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said in a new interview.

According to President Yoon, the joint planning and exercises will be aimed at a more effective implementation of the US “extended deterrence.” The term refers to the US military’s ability, particularly its nuclear forces, to deter attacks on US allies.

“The nuclear weapons belong to the US, but planning, information sharing, exercises, and training should be conducted jointly by South Korea and the US,” President Yoon said, adding that Washington is “quite positive” about the idea.

President Yoon’s comments come a day after North Korea’s state media reported that its leader, Kim Jong Un, has called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and a “exponential increase” in the country’s nuclear arsenal to counter US-led threats amid escalating tensions between the Korea’s.

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The North’s race to advance its nuclear and missile programs has reignited debate over South Korea’s own nuclear arsenal, but Yoon stressed the importance of adhering to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Kim said last week at a Workers’ Party meeting that South Korea has now become the North’s “undoubted enemy” and outlined new military objectives, implying another year of intense weapons testing and tension.

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Inter-Korean relations have long been strained, but they have become even more so since Yoon took office in May.

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast on Sunday (Jan 1), in a rare late-night New Year’s Day weapons test, following three ballistic missile launches on Saturday, capping a year marked by a record number of missile tests.

Yoon’s remarks on the nuclear exercises are the latest example of his tough stance toward North Korea. Following the crossing of North Korean drones into the South last week, he urged the military to prepare for a “overwhelming” war. Analysts believe tensions will worsen.

“This year could be a year of crisis, with military tension on the Korean peninsula exceeding what it was like in 2017,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, referring to Trump’s “fire and fury” days.

“North Korea’s hardline stance…and aggressive weapons development, when met with South Korea-US joint exercises and proportional response, could raise tensions in an instant, and we cannot rule out what’s similar to a regional conflict when the two sides misunderstand the situation,” Hong said.

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