Despite President Joe Biden’s firm denial that the U.S. and South Korea are discussing joint nuclear exercises, South Korea once again declared that the allies are in talks on Seoul’s involvement in U.S. nuclear asset management.
Reuters reported that officials from both sides on Tuesday confirmed their discussions for joint planning and implementation of American nuclear counters to aggressive North Korean actions.
They also expressed hopes of carrying out a tabletop exercise in the near future.
Much of the push for renewed cooperation originated from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The dictator began 2023 with a pledge to mass produce battlefield nuclear weapons aimed toward his southern neighbor.
He also vowed to manufacture a stronger intercontinental ballistic missile with the capability of hitting the U.S. mainland. It is widely believed that Kim’s proclamation is actually targeting getting concessions from sanctions that have crippled his nation.
North Korea launched a record number of missiles in 2022 and sparked alarm when it sent drones into South Korea last month.
South Korea's president says his government is in talks with the US on taking a more active role in managing nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, a significant policy shift to deter North Korea https://t.co/tt06AP8e4p
— Bloomberg Asia (@BloombergAsia) January 2, 2023
A noticeable communications gap emerged Monday after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol told a newspaper interviewer that his country and the U.S. already agreed to joint planning and training. He said the new policy would assist in convincing South Koreans of the reality of deterrence.
However, later in the day, a reporter asked Biden at the White House if the nations were engaged in talks on joint nuclear exercises. Then came the president’s denial.
But Tuesday, Yoon’s senior adviser for press affairs, Kim Eun-hye, issued a new statement. It reiterated that Seoul and Washington “are discussing an intel-sharing, a joint planning and subsequent joint executions plan” involving American nuclear assets.
Kim clarified that Biden likely responded negatively to an abrupt question that did not include background information.
South Korea is not a member of the “nuclear club” and relies on U.S. protection against such a threat.
A National Security Council spokesperson added in a statement that the U.S. is committed to deterring any attack on the South, “including nuclear use by North Korea.”
It is no surprise that the president is not in tune with his administration’s foreign policy, particularly concerning Asia. Monday was just another in a long trail of embarrassing misstatements from the White House, and as usual, it is up to others to clarify the federal government’s position.