Biden contradicts South Korean prez, says US not discussing nuclear exercises | World News

The United States is not discussing joint nuclear exercises with South Korea, President Joe Biden said Monday, contradicting his South Korean counterpart’s remarks as tensions flare with North Korea.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said Seoul and Washington were discussing possible joint exercises using US nuclear assets, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called the South “an undisputed enemy”.

“No,” Biden replied when asked by White House reporters if he was currently discussing joint nuclear exercises with South Korea. He had just returned from vacation in the US Virgin Islands, where he was accompanied by his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

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Yoon’s comments, in a newspaper interview published on Monday, followed his call for “war preparedness” with “overwhelming” capability, after a year of record North Korean missile testing and the intrusion of North Korean drones into the South last week. .

“Nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but the planning, information sharing, exercises and training should be done jointly by South Korea and the United States,” Yoon said in an interview with the newspaper. Chosun Ilbo.

The newspaper quoted Yoon as saying the joint planning and exercises would aim for a more effective implementation of US “extended deterrence” and that Washington was also “pretty positive” about the idea.

The term “extended deterrence” refers to the ability of the US military, particularly its nuclear forces, to deter attacks against US allies.

The United States has long had an extended deterrent dialogue with Japan to discuss nuclear issues and began the same dialogue with South Korea in 2016, said Thomas Countryman, the former acting undersecretary of state. Arms Control, who chaired the first meeting of the dialogue.

“It’s not immediately clear what is new in Chairman Yoon’s statement and what is a restatement of things that are already happening,” Countryman said in a phone interview Monday.

Now chairman of the board of the Arms Control Association, Countryman said Yoon’s comments, directed at the South Korean people, appeared to be a response to what Countryman called North Korea’s provocations and rhetoric. .

“I see this as an effort by President Yoon and the Biden administration to reassure the South Korean government and people that the American commitment remains strong.”

READ ALSO : North Korea angered by joint US-South Korean military drills, warns of ‘powerful’ response

Yoon’s remarks came a day after North Korean state media reported that its leader Kim had called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and an “exponential increase” in the country’s nuclear arsenal. country.

At a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last week, Kim said South Korea had become the “undisputed enemy” of the North and was deploying new military targets, hinting at another year of testing. arms and tension.

Inter-Korean relations have long been rocky, but they have frayed even more since Yoon took office in May, promising a tougher stance on the North.

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast on Sunday in a rare late night weapons test on New Year’s Day, following three ballistic missiles launched Saturday.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said the projectiles were fired from its super-large multiple rocket launcher system, which Kim said “has South Korea as a whole within striking range and is capable to carry tactical nuclear warheads”.

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