U.S., Korea 'Will Use Nuclear Arms to Defend Themselves'

  • By Choi Kyung-woon, Shin Eun-jin

    May 23, 2022 09:43

    President Yoon Suk-yeol and his visiting U.S. counterpart Joe Biden agreed on Saturday to use all defense capabilities including nuclear weapons to defend South Korea against a nuclear attack from North Korea.

    "In order to prepare against a possible nuclear attack, our two countries' combined military exercises, I believe, should be stepped up in many aspects." Yoon told reporters. "We had that discussion."

    According to the two presidents' joint statement, Biden "affirms the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to [South Korea] using the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities."

    President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) and first lady Kim Keon-hee welcome U.S. President Joe Biden to a state dinner at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul on May 21. / Yonhap

    It was the first time in some years that the two countries have so openly threatened to use nuclear arms in case of an attack from the North. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month threatened unspecified enemies with pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

    The two leaders also decided to reactivate a strategic consultation group as soon as possible and "initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula."

    Yoon took the opportunity to announce that South Korea is joining the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Proposed by Biden last October, IPEF aims to establish an economic alliance in the Asia-Pacific region to reduce their supply-chain dependence on China.

    The two leaders agreed to "develop a comprehensive IPEF that will deepen economic engagement on priority issues, including the digital economy, resilient supply chains, clean energy and other priorities geared toward promoting sustainable economic growth." 

    President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden visit a Samsung chip plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on May 20. /Yonhap
    Biden was keen to meet South Korean business leaders, starting his visit with a guided tour around a Samsung chip factory by Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong last Friday and meeting Hyundai chairman Chung Eui-sun on Sunday. Chung pledged to build a US$5.5 billion electric car factory in the U.S. state of Georgia and announced an additional $5 billion investment in the future mobility business in America.

    U.S. President Joe Biden (right) shakes his hand with Hyundai chairman Chung Eui-sun in Seoul on Sunday. /News1

    South Korean businesses are investing a combined W54 trillion in the U.S. in the areas of semiconductors, EVs and batteries (US$1=W1,268). Samsung announced late last year that it will invest $17 billion in a factory in the U.S.

    Such investments could give Biden's Democratic Party an advantage in the U.S. mid-term elections in November. 

    President Yoon Suk-yeol (center left) speaks to U.S. Forces Korea officers at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on Sunday. /Yonhap
    After visiting a strategic command center at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province with Yoon, Biden flew to Japan to meet the other leaders of countries in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad -- Japan, Australia and India -- another anti-China alliance.

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