The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austin, visited Korea yesterday afternoon. Minister Austin will meet with Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop today to discuss ways to strengthen North Korea policy coordination and extended deterrence. A strong message of warning against a series of North Korean provocations is expected to come out at this meeting. This weekend, Foreign Minister Park Jin will meet with Secretary of State Tony Blincoln in the United States to coordinate alliance matters such as President Yoon Seok-yeol’s visit to the United States and the Indo-Pacific Strategy. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the ROK-US alliance, and from the beginning of the year, a series of talks will be held between the foreign and security chiefs of the two countries.
This series of talks comes at a time when strength is needed and the alliance will be stronger than ever in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations. Coincidentally, the results of a poll by the Choi Jong-hyeon Academy, which came out yesterday, have many implications. When asked if they thought South Korea’s independent nuclear development was necessary, 76.6% of respondents answered ‘yes’. When asked if they believed the US would exercise nuclear deterrence in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, 51.3% answered ‘yes’ and 48.7% ‘no’. Although the majority of Koreans agree on the need for independent nuclear development, they are skeptical of US nuclear deterrence. President Yoon’s recent declaration that nuclear weapons are possible is not irrelevant to the people’s doubts about the US nuclear deterrence pledge.
Through this series of talks, South Korea and the United States must come up with concrete and concrete measures to strengthen their ability to carry out actions that will increase the credibility of the US extended deterrence pledge. The defense ministers of South Korea and the United States had already warned last year, “If North Korea launches a nuclear attack, the regime of Kim Jong-un will end.” It should be shown that this is not simple rhetoric through practical measures such as the ROK-US Extended Deterrence TTX (DSC TTX) to be held next month and joint training to use strategic assets for nuclear deterrence. In addition, it is necessary to open the possibility of relocating US tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula and start full-scale consultations between the two countries to prepare for it.
Independent nuclear weapons are a difficult realistic option that requires paying a harsh price, including sanctions from the international community following withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Nevertheless, as the sense of insecurity and helplessness felt by the people of South Korea against North Korea’s growing nuclear threat continues to grow, questions arise as to whether the United States should remain silent and believe in the promise of the alliance, and and the United States will defend South Korea in the face of a threat. The North Korean nuclear threat tests the trust of this alliance. Correctly demonstrating the power of the 70-year alliance with the highest level of extended deterrence is the most powerful force to defeat North Korea’s futile impulses.