US President Joe Biden (d) and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol at the White House on April 26, 2023 in Washington (AFP / Jim Watson)
US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol warned North Korea on Wednesday against any nuclear attack that would trigger a response that would “terminate” the regime in Pyongyang.
Speaking at a press conference after their meeting at the White House, the two leaders highlighted the strengthening of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and their “unbreakable alliance,” “forged in wartime and flourishing in peacetime.”
“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partners would be unacceptable and would bring to an end any regime that decides to take such action,” the US president warned.
Mr Yoon, for his part, believed that peace with his northern neighbors rested on a “much higher power” rather than “goodwill from the other side”.
Beijing immediately warned Seoul and Washington “not to provoke a conflict” with Pyongyang.
“All parties should face the core of the (Korean) peninsula issue and play a constructive role in promoting a peaceful solution to the issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao said Thursday.
Believing that Washington was exacerbating “tensions on the peninsula”, he called on the US to “do not deliberately inflame tensions, provoke conflict and show threats”.
– “Washington Declaration” –
The South Korean president is the second foreign leader to be honored with a state visit under President Biden, following French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit last December.
US President Joe Biden (d) and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol during a press conference at the White House on April 26, 2023 in Washington (AFP / Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
The United States and South Korea agreed to significantly strengthen their defense cooperation, including on nuclear energy, through closer “consultations” in the “Washington Declaration” adopted on Wednesday.
“Our two countries agreed to immediately start bilateral consultations in the event of a nuclear attack by North Korea, and pledged to use the full force of our alliance, including the United States’ nuclear weapons, to respond promptly and decisively,” Yoon said.
They need to reassure their South Korean ally, the United States, in the face of North Korea’s record-breaking missile strikes this year.
The message has also been sent to China, which condemns Washington as not using enough leverage to change course in Pyongyang.
Alerted by Washington, Beijing immediately condemned the decision.
“What the United States is doing (…) is causing a conflict between the camps, undermining the non-proliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries,” Mao said.
Chart showing North Korea’s missile launches since January 2022 (AFP/)
Beyond that, Washington is sending a signal of its increasingly firm commitment to the Asia-Pacific region after recently strengthening defense deals with Australia, Japan and the Philippines.
Mr. Biden is due to travel to the next G7 summit in Japan in mid-May, then to Sydney for the “Quad” summit that brings together the US, Australia, Japan and India.
For Frank Ohm of the Institute for Peace in Washington, the announcements did not have the expected effect.
“History shows that North Korea tends not only to deter military exercises, but also to increase them,” he said.
– Nuclear Submarine –
Among the measures decided within the framework of this “Washington Declaration”, South Korea deployed a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine for the first time in four decades.
The deployment of this submarine, which is equipped with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, is supposed to be “sometime”.
US President Joe Biden (2nd L) and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol visit the Korean War Memorial in Washington on April 25, 2023 (AFP / Jim Watson).
Also, this “Washington Declaration” sets out a mechanism for consultation and exchange of information with Seoul on nuclear deterrence.
“The United States has not taken such action with a few close allies in Europe since the days of the Cold War,” said one official on condition of anonymity.
However, the US has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in South Korea and reaffirms its commitment that Seoul does not seek to acquire its own arsenal.
Both countries have reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Besides submarines, there will be “routine visits by bombers and aircraft carriers”. But the official assured that there would be no “permanent deployment of these mechanisms or nuclear weapons”.
President Yun arrived outside the White House to the cheers of a few hundred people and received military honors in a well-rehearsed ceremony.
He is scheduled to address both houses of Congress before flying to Boston on Friday, then visit the prestigious universities of MIT and Harvard, and then return to Korea on Saturday.
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