South Korea, US discuss nuclear exercises as tensions flare with North

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South Korea and the United States are discussing possible joint exercises using US nuclear assets, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un labelled the South its “undoubted enemy” in flaring cross-border tensions.

Yoon’s comments, in a newspaper interview published on Monday, come after he called for “war preparation” with an “overwhelming” capability, following a year marked by the North’s record number of missile tests, and the intrusion of North Korean drones into the South last week.

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

The newspaper quoted Yoon as saying the joint planning and exercises would be aimed at a more effective imple-mentation of the US “extended deterrence,” and that Washington was also “quite positive” about the idea.

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

A Pentagon spokesperson said: “We have nothing to announce today,” when asked about Yoon’s comments, adding that the alliance remains “rock-solid.” Yoon’s remarks were published a day after North Korean state media reported that its leader Kim called for developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and an “exponential increase” of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

At a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party meeting last week, Kim said South Korea has now become the North’s “undoubted enemy” and rolled out new military goals, hinting at another year of intensive weapons tests and ten-sion.—INP