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US,SKorea Sign Nuke Deterrence Document07/12 06:17

   

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The U.S. and South Korea signed joint nuclear 
deterrence guidelines for the first time, a basic yet important step in their 
efforts to improve their ability to respond to North Korea's evolving nuclear 
threats.

   Meeting Thursday on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Washington, President 
Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol commended what they called 
"the tremendous progress" that their countries' alliance has made a year after 
creating a joint Nuclear Consultative Group.

   The two leaders authorized "the U.S.-ROK Guidelines for Nuclear Deterrence 
and Nuclear Operations on the Korean Peninsula," which were signed by defense 
officials Thursday, according to South Korea's presidential office. ROK stands 
for the Republic of Korea, South Korea's official name.

   Last year, the U.S. and South Korea launched the consultative body to 
strengthen communication on nuclear operations and discuss how to integrate 
U.S. nuclear weapons and South Korean conventional weapons in various 
contingencies. The U.S. has long promised to use all its capabilities, 
including nuclear weapons, to defend South Korea if it is attacked, but faced 
suspicions that it lacks plans on how it would exercise its extended deterrence 
for its Asian ally.

   The consultative body was established as North Korea has sharply accelerated 
its missile testing activities and openly threatened to use nuclear weapons 
preemptively in potential conflicts with its rivals. South Korea has no nuclear 
weapons.

   "The presidents underscored that the Guidelines document provides a solid 
foundation for enhancing U.S.-ROK extended deterrence cooperation in an 
integrated manner," said a joint statement by Biden and Yoon.

   Du Hyeogn Cha, an analyst at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said 
the guidelines mark substantial progress in deterrence plans, but the allies 
will still need to fill in the details and conduct military exercises to test 
them.

   Kim Tae-hyo, a deputy national security director in South Korea, told 
reporters that South Korea and the U.S. will conduct joint military exercises 
to help implement the deterrence guidelines. He said the U.S. would commit 
specific nuclear assets to a role in deterrence plans, but experts added that 
this does not mean it would permanently place nuclear weapons in South Korea.

   Specifics of the guidelines, which Seoul called confidential, were not 
available, though the U.S. will certainly retain control of its nuclear weapons.

   "The key is how to integrate South Korea's conventional weapons and 
America's nuclear weapons to launch joint, massive retaliation to North Korea, 
when it carries out nuclear strikes on South Korea," said Kim Yeol Soo, an 
expert at South Korea's Korea Institute for Military Affairs.

   He said prospects for South Korea-U.S. coordination are bright if Biden is 
re-elected in the November election, but could suffer a setback if former 
President Donald Trump returns to the White House.

   North Korea is expected to respond angrily to the announcement, as it has 
previously accused its rivals of using the consultation group to plot a nuclear 
attack on the North.

   Worries about North Korea have further deepened since North Korean leader 
Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed a deal 
requiring each country to provide aid to the other if it is attacked, and vowed 
to boost other cooperation. Analysts say the accord represents the strongest 
connection between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.

 
 
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