Seoul says talks underway over joint nuclear exercises with US
Washington and Seoul discuss joint exercises to counter the DPRK's so-called nuclear threat.
Seoul and Washington are discussing joint planning and exercises involving US nuclear assets to counter growing "North Korean threats", according to South Korea's presidential office, after US President Joe Biden said no such joint drills would take place.
The statement was issued after Biden stated that the US was not discussing joint nuclear exercises with South Korea, seemingly contradicting remarks made earlier this week by Seoul's President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Yoon's office said that the two security allies are "in talks over information-sharing, joint planning and the joint implementation plans that follow with regard to the operation of US nuclear assets to respond to North Korea's nuclear weapons."
The president told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper on Monday that the United States' existing "nuclear umbrella" and "extended deterrence" were no longer sufficient to reassure South Koreans.
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"The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but the planning, information sharing, exercises, and training must be done jointly by South Korea and the United States," Yoon said, adding that the US was "quite positive" about the idea.
Hours after that interview was published, Biden responded emphatically "no" when asked if the two sides were considering joint nuclear exercises.
Yoon's office acknowledged Biden's response but said the US president had been "left with no options but to answer 'No' when directly asked... without any context".
"Joint nuclear exercise is a term only used by nuclear powers," said Kim Eun-hye, a spokeswoman for the South Korean president's office.
South Korea has beefed up joint military drills with the United States, which had been scaled back during the pandemic.
A few months back, the US and South Korean militaries launched the largest ever military exercises on October 31, due to last for five days and with hundreds of warplanes bound to participate in 1,600 sorties in attack preparation courses 24 hours per day, Reuters reported.
According to a US Air Force statement, Operation Vigilant Storm is the largest since 2017 intended to fend off alleged encroachments from North Korea's military.
The joint drills were condemned by North Korea as a "rehearsal for invasion and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul," but per Reuters, allies consider the drills a requirement due to the North Korean military launching a high number of missiles this year, which, in their turn, were in response to growing US influence in the region alongside South Korea.
This comes after a US aircraft carrier and its battle group began conducting training exercises with South Korean warships on September 26, off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.
The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser, and the USS Barry, a guided missile destroyer, which anchored in Busan, South Korea on September 23, were taking part in the drills.