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Korea, US hold ministerial talks

Posted January. 31, 2023 07:49,   

Updated January. 31, 2023 07:49


U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Korea on Monday afternoon. Secretary Austin will be meeting Korean Minister of Defense Lee Jeong-seob the following day to discuss policy coordination on North Korea and plans to reinforce deterrence. It is expected that both sides will come up with a strong message of alert against North Korea’s provocations. Meanwhile, Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin will meet U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken in the U.S. to coordinate on various alliance issues, including Indo-Pacific strategies. These consecutive high-level meetings between the two countries at the beginning of the year mark the 70th anniversary of the South Korea- U.S. alliance this year.

Such meetings come at a time when the alliance's strength and will must be shown against North Korea’s missile provocations. The survey results of the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, which were made public yesterday, are quite significant. 76.5% of survey respondents replied that they felt South Korea needed to develop its nuclear program. 51.3% of the respondents said that they viewed the U.S. to use nuclear deterrence in a contingency situation, while 48.7% said they did not think so. This means that most Korean people agree to the need for our nuclear program while unsure about the U.S.’ nuclear deterrence. President Yoon Suk Yeol’s recent comment about the possibility of “nuclear armament” probably reflects such public skepticism towards the U.S.’ nuclear deterrence commitment.

South Korea and the U.S. need to come up with specific implementation plans to enhance trust towards the U.S.’ commitment for extended deterrence. Defense ministers of both countries warned last year that “Kim Jong Un’s regime would end if North Korea carries out nuclear attacks.” We need to show North Korea that such remarks are not empty rhetoric by showing actions such as the DSC TTX that will be held next month and joint exercises on strategic assets. We should leave open the option of rearranging tactical nukes on the Korean peninsula and start discussions for preparation.

Nuclear armament would be a realistically difficult option as it would entail international community sanctions because of attrition from the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Framework. Still, the people are questioning whether relying on the alliance would be realistically effective only amid rising anxieties and helplessness. North Korea’s nuclear threats are testing the credibility of the alliance. The most effective force against North Korea’s impulse is using extended deterrence to show off the power of the 70-year alliance.