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South Korea and US Work on Joint Strategy to Counter Northern Nuclear Threat

Published: June 11, 2024
(Image: The South Korean and American flags fly next to each other at Yongin, South Korea, August 23, 2016. Courtesy Ken Scar/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo)

On Monday, June 10, senior South Korean and U.S. defense officials met in Seoul to work and coordinate their response to any nuclear threat from North Korea, officials said.

According to a joint statement on the issue, the guidelines laid out the principles and procedures for maintaining and enhancing a “credible and effective” nuclear deterrence policy and posture on the matter.

The Nuclear Consultative Group meeting came amid signs North Korea is racing to develop its nuclear arms and delivery systems.

Some South Korean politicians, including senior members of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s party, have called for Seoul to develop its own nuclear weapons, rather than just rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. But that is something that Washington strongly opposes.

Monday’s meeting followed up on last year’s summit, when the United States promised to give South Korea more insight into its nuclear planning for any conflict with the North.

Vipin Narang, acting U.S. assistant secretary of defense for space policy who co-chaired the talks, said the guidelines set up an architecture to integrate conventional and nuclear capabilities. 

“The guidelines cover the principles and procedures for consultations, particularly in a DPRK [North Korea] nuclear crisis and inform alliance operational concepts and exercises,” Narang told a news conference. 

Cho Chang-rae, South Korea’s deputy defense minister for policy, said high-level officials from both countries will hold a simulated tabletop exercise before regular summertime drills, with a focus on the possibility of North Korea using a nuclear weapon.

The two Koreas are still technically at war after their 1950–1953 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. 

In late May, North Korea’s attempt to launch a military reconnaissance satellite failed after exploding in flight.

Seoul and Washington condemned the launch as a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions banning Pyongyang’s use of ballistic technology.

After their second meeting in December, both sides warned that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies will be met with a “swift, overwhelming and decisive response” and result in the end of Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Their next meeting will be held in Washington near the end of the year.

Reuters contributed to this report.