US, South Korea to Strengthen Ties to Address Nuclear Crises
US, South Korea to Strengthen Ties to Address Nuclear Crises

By Emel Akan

President Joe Biden will welcome South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to the White House on Wednesday, where both leaders are expected to sign a declaration to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

This is “a hugely important visit” to commemorate the 70th anniversary of U.S.–South Korean diplomatic ties, a senior administration official briefed reporters on April 25, adding that Washington will be taking significant steps to strengthen the U.S. commitment to “extended deterrence” on the Korean Peninsula.

Both leaders will sign an agreement called the Washington Declaration to counter the growing threat from North Korea.

“The Washington declaration has been in discussion with the Korean government for months and in it we will reaffirm our commitment to make every effort to consult with the ROK in potential nuclear crises,” the official said, adding that the Republic of Korea (ROK) will reaffirm its commitment to its non-nuclear status during the visit.

The text of the agreement, which will be released on Wednesday, will announce the foundation of a new body, the U.S.-ROK Nuclear Consultative Group. The group will serve as a regular bilateral dialogue mechanism focusing on nuclear and strategic planning issues.

The agreement is a response to North Korea’s (DPRK’s) increased missile test launches into international waters.

“We will announce that we intend to take steps to make our deterrence more visible through the regular deployment of strategic assets including a U.S. nuclear ballistic submarine visit to South Korea, which has not happened since the early 1980s,” the official said. “We will strengthen our training, our exercises, and simulation activities to improve the U.S.–ROK alliance’s approach to deterring and defending against DPRK threats, including by better integrating ROK conventional assets into our strategic plan.”

However, contrary to popular belief, South Korea will not develop its own nuclear weapons, the official noted.

According to a poll conducted last year by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 71 percent of South Koreans backed the development of a domestic nuclear weapons program.

“The ROK will reaffirm its enduring commitment to its own obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” the official said.

The visit also demonstrates the U.S. commitment to step up its game in the Indo-Pacific region.

Both parties will also talk about how they might work together on Ukraine. South Korea has implemented U.S. sanctions on Russian exports and has supplied humanitarian aid. South Korea’s president has recently hinted at a possible shift in his country’s stance toward the war, perhaps paving the way for direct military assistance to Kyiv.

“The leaders will discuss a shared vision of a strong and deeply integrated U.S.–ROK Alliance that maintains peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” according to the White House.

Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Yoon, followed by a joint press conference in the Rose Garden on Wednesday. And in the evening, the leaders will attend a black-tie state dinner along with their spouses. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff are also expected attend the dinner.

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