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US to dock nuclear subs in South Korea for 1st time in 40 years

US to dock nuclear subs in South Korea for 1st time in 40 years

Diplomat Times (WASHINGTON)- President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol are set to sign an agreement including plans to have U.S. nuclear-armed submarines dock in South Korea for the first time in decades.

That’s according to three senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters on the show of support to Seoul amid growing worry about North Korean nuclear threats. The dock visits are a key element of what’s called the “Washington Declaration,” aimed at deterring North Korea from attacking its neighbor and keeping South Korea from restarting its own nuclear program.

Biden and Yoon did not directly address the agreement before reporters at the start of their Oval Office talks.

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The three senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement, said that Biden and Yoon aides have been working on details of the plan for months and agreed that “occasional” and “very clear demonstrations of the strength” of U.S. extended deterrence capabilities needed to be an essential aspect of the agreement.

The agreement seeks to allay South Korean fears over the North’s aggressive nuclear weapons program and to keep the country from restarting its own nuclear program, which it gave up nearly 50 years ago when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yoon earlier this year said his country was weighing developing its own nuclear weapons or asking the U.S. to redeploy them on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. and South Korea also would coordinate more deeply on nuclear response strategy in the event of the North attacking the South — but operational control of such weapons would remain in U.S. control, and no nuclear weapons are being deployed onto South Korean shores.

Biden and Yoon did not directly address the agreement during their remarks at a pomp-filled arrival ceremony before nearly 7,000 guests on the White House lawn nor during a brief appearance before reporters at the start of their Oval Office talks. Biden stressed that both nations are committed to “doubling down on our cooperation as allies” as North Korea “ramps up its challenges.”

“We’re taking on the challenges of the world, and we’re taking them on together,” Biden said.

The state visit comes as the U.S. and South Korea mark the 70th year of the countries’ alliance that began at the end of the Korean War and committed the United States to help South Korea defend itself, particularly from North Korea. Approximately 28,500 U.S. troops are currently based in South Korea.

“Why did they sacrifice their lives for this faraway country and for the people that you’ve never met?” Yoon said of the U.S. troops who served during the war. “That was for one noble cause: to defend freedom.”

The agreement also calls for the U.S. and South Korean militaries to strengthen joint training and better integrate South Korean military assets into the joint strategic deterrence effort. As part of the declaration, South Korea will reaffirm its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an agreement signed by several major nuclear and non-nuclear powers that pledged their cooperation to stem the spread of nuclear technology, the officials said.

As a candidate for the presidency last year, Yoon said he would call for the increased deployment of U.S. bombers, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to South Korea as he looked to offer a firmer response to the North’s threats than his predecessor Moon Jae-in.

Zeke Miller, Zeke is AP’s chief White House correspondent | Colleen Long, The White House, law enforcement and legal affairs | Via : AP

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