The South Korean president says US guarantees of “extensive deterrence” are no longer sufficient in the face of North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has said Seoul and Washington are discussing joint exercises involving US nuclear assets to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile programs.

In an interview with Chosun Ilbo newspaper published Monday, Yoon said Washington’s existing “nuclear umbrella” and “comprehensive deterrence” were no longer enough to reassure South Koreans.

He was referring to the ability of the US military, especially its nuclear forces, to deter attacks against its allies.

“What we call extended deterrence was also the US telling us not to worry because it will take care of everything, but now it’s hard to convince our people with that,” he said. “The U.S. government understands that to some degree.”

To better respond to North Korea’s nuclear threats, Seoul wants to participate in the US nuclear forces operation, he said.

“The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but planning, information sharing, exercises and training should be conducted jointly by South Korea and the United States,” Yoon said, adding that Washington is also “quite positive” about the idea .

Yoon’s comments come a day after North Korean state media reported that its leader Kim Jong-un called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and a “exponential increase” of the country’s nuclear arsenal to counter what he called hostility from the US and South Korea.

Kim also told one meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last week, South Korea has now become its country’s “undisputed enemy” and rolled out new military targets, signaling another year of intense weapons testing and tension.

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile from its eastern tier on Sunday in a rare late-night New Year’s Day weapons test. three ballistic missiles launched the previous day, capping a year marked by a record number of missile tests.

North Korea’s race to advance its nuclear and missile programs has reignited debate over South Korea’s own nuclear armaments, with a majority of South Koreans in favor of developing a domestic nuclear weapons program, but Yoon said enforcing the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons Weapons remained important.

Inter-Korean ties have long been tested, but have frayed even more since Yoon took office in May.

Yoon’s comments about the nuclear exercises are the latest demonstration of his tough stance on North Korea.

Last week he urged the military to prepare for a war with “overwhelming” capability North Korean drones fly into South Korea.

Analysts say tensions could worsen.

“This year could be a year of crisis with military tensions on the Korean Peninsula extending beyond 2017,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, referring to the days of the “fire and fury”. under the administration of former US President Donald Trump.

“North Korea’s tough stance … and aggressive weapons development during joint exercises between South Korea and the US and the proportional response could raise tension in a flash, and we cannot rule out what is comparable to a regional conflict when the two sides have a misunderstanding of the situation,” Hong said.

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