A high-ranking official of the Biden administration said on Thursday that if North Korea wants a dialogue, arms reduction talks could be one option. This can be interpreted as if the North agrees on talks without conditions, on the premise that recognizing North Korea as a nuclear state leads to arms reduction, the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises could be scaled down. This is the first time the Biden administration mentioned the possibility of arms reduction talks with the North.
At the 2022 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, said the U.S. wouldn’t say ‘no’ to Kim Jong Un when he calls to talk about arms reduction, adding that they need to start by talking about what arms reduction means for the North. Arms reduction talks normally take place when nuclear states want to lower the risk of nuclear war. It is a negotiation for an agreement to reduce nuclear arms.
The U.S. has been dismissing the idea of nuclear arms reduction talks, saying, “The talks would mean recognizing North Korea as a nuclear state.” In addition, there have been many concerns that if the U.S. and North Korea engage in nuclear arms talks, the North might demand to halt the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises and withdraw U.S. Armed Forces in Korea.
In fact, Under Secretary Jenkins said that they can also have a dialogue on risk reduction, which can lead to a traditional arms reduction agreement, suggesting the U.S. can adjust its military response posture as a reward for reducing nuclear arms.
The U.S. Defense Department released the public versions of three strategic documents — the National Defense Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review, and the Missile Defense Review. The documents stated that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result at the end of that regime. The United States will continue to field flexible nuclear forces, including the capability to deploy strategic bombers forward. Plus, it highlighted that the U.S. could strengthen extended deterrence, and a forum for high-level engagement could be held regularly for supporting rapid crisis response.”
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the South Korean military detected two short-range ballistic missiles being fired from the area of Tongchon County in Kangwon Province toward the East Coast between around 11:59 a.m. and 12:18 p.m. local time on Friday. The short-range ballistic missiles traveled about 230 kilometers at an altitude of around 24 kilometers. At Tongchon, where the North launched its first ballistic missile, KN-24, an SRBM of August 2019 was also fired.