The Joe Biden administration warned that the North’s attacking the U.S., an ally or partner with nuclear weapons, cannot be tolerated, and it will result in the termination of the regime. Washington made the remarks in its National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Preparedness Report on Friday, saying that there is no scenario in which the Kim Jong Un regime survives even after using a nuclear weapon.”
The warnings, including “termination of the regime,” were already found on NPR from the Trump administration in 2018, but the situation is now different. Russian President Vladimir Putin is intensifying threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in the face of strong resistance in the Ukraine War. China’s threat against Taiwan is also worrisome. Taking advantage of such situations, the Kim Jong Un administration is stepping up efforts to complete and perfect tactical nuclear weapons.
In this light, the Biden administration effectively announced North Korea as a third nuclear threat after China and Russia and mentioned the “nuclear deterrence dilemma,” saying that Pyongyang’s provocations can lead to global conflict. This reveals the underlying concern that if a military conflict occurs in the Korean Peninsula due to the bonding of stronger ties among North Korea, China, and Russia, it can lead to armed conflict between nuclear powers in which nuclear-armed countries, including China and Russia, intervene.
NPR said that the U.S. would mobilize nuclear capabilities flexibly, including forward deployment of strategic bombers and nuclear weapons, to deter nuclear conflict in the region. Washington seems to be declining the demand for the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea and sharing nuclear weapons. However, it is also true that watchers are growing concerned about whether Washington can practically counter the North’s nuclear threat merely with the strengthening of efforts to deter nuclear proliferation. As such, discussions and actions to strengthen the capability to execute the nuclear umbrella should follow.
Separately from the National Defense Strategy, Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary for arms reduction at the U.S. State Department, said, “If North Korea wants dialogue, (negotiations) for arms reduction can be an option.” It is the first time the Biden administration has mentioned the possibility of arms reduction with Pyongyang. It made the remarks under the compelling premise that the North is a nuclear state, which could spark controversy. Pyongyang recently conducted an extensive drill on the operation of tactical nuclear weapons units and fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea again on Friday. Seoul should cautiously and meticulously respond, regardless of whether mentioning arms reduction is a measure to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table or an approach combining hardline and friendly measures.