S. Korea President tones down statement on developing nuclear weapon
In an interview for the WSJ, South Korea's leader says he fully trusts the US' extended deterrence.
South Korea's President backed down on his previous statement that his country could develop independent nuclear weapons, noting that Seoul's "realistic and rational option" is to abide by the NPT text.
Talking to The Wall Street Journal while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Yoon Suk-yeol said, “I can assure you that the Republic of Korea’s realistic and rational option is to fully respect the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] regime…I’m fully confident about the U.S.’s extended deterrence.”
Earlier this month, Yoon stated that his country might develop its own nuclear weapons in case its neighbor DPRK does not stop its nuclear program.
Read more: US may allow South Korea to acquire nuclear bomb: Foreign Policy
The US has long opposed this step, as per Washington's claim, this will escalate tensions with North Korea.
According to WSJ, Yoon added that Seoul is focused to establish contingency plans with its US and Japanese allies and working forward to operate under the United State's nuclear umbrella.
The South Korean plans include drone development, in addition to short-range ballistic missiles.
“We are preparing a stronger joint planning and joint execution in operating the U.S. nuclear assets on the Korean Peninsula,” Yoon said.
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The South Korean President said he understands Tokyo's recent effort to enhance its military, saying that Japan's actions were inevitable as tensions in the region are growing.
Despite Japan's occupation of Korea in the 20th century, Yoon said Seoul is working with Washington and Tokyo to deter DPRK.
“I believe that trilateral cooperation is very important and, in this regard, I don’t see many problems about Japan strengthening their own capabilities.”
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The President also noted that his country will strengthen its cyberwar and intelligence power to counter DPRK's advancing capabilities, noting that he considers it unlikely that Pyongyang will drop its weapons program for the time being.
South Korea is one of Washington's key allies that could be impacted by the recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) adopted by the US, which includes subsidizing electric vehicles produced in the US and might affect South Korea's automakers.
Regarding the US Chips Act, which aims to cut China's semiconductor sales and increase American domestic production, South Korea perceives the bill as a potential challenge.
Yoon told the WSJ that Seoul and Washington engaged in discussions regarding the IRA guidelines and noted that he believes a consensus can be reached to protect his country's companies.
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He also commented on the Chips Act, saying it “is a complicated issue, but what is most important is that in the actual execution of the law and relevant provisions, we will do our best so that Korean companies won’t be exposed to too much risk.”
Yoon also told the news site that during a meeting at the G20 summit last November in Indonesia, he agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping on exchanging official visits.
“At an appropriate date I would like to pay a visit to China,” he said without specifying more details.