United States and South Korea have reached an important nuclear weapons agreement.

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is in Washington this week to meet with US President Joe Biden about a variety of problems. image: EPA

The United States and South Korea have reached a historic deal to address North Korea’s nuclear risk.

According to the Washington Declaration, the United States has agreed to send nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea on a regular basis and to incorporate Seoul in its nuclear planning procedures.

South Korea has agreed to refrain from developing its own nuclear weapons in exchange.

President Joe Biden noted that this deal will strengthen the alliance’s collaboration and their ability to resist a potential North Korean strike.

Both countries are increasingly concerned about North Korea’s nuclear threat, which is currently developing tactical nuclear weapons capable of attacking South Korea while refining long-range missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

While the US already has a legal obligation to defend South Korea and has previously stated that nuclear weapons would be used if necessary, some South Koreans have begun to question the scope of this commitment and have advocated for their country to establish its own nuclear program.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who was on a state visit to the White House, remarked that the Washington Declaration reflects an unparalleled commitment by the US to deploy nuclear weapons to bolster defense, deter assaults, and protect its allies.

According to a senior administration official, the new accord is the result of months of negotiations.

The US will raise the exposure of its defense commitments under the new pact by dispatching a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in four decades, along with other strategic assets such as nuclear-capable bombers.

In addition, a Nuclear Consultative Group will be formed to explore nuclear planning concerns.

Seoul politicians have urged Washington to include them more in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea.

South Koreans have grown increasingly concerned about being kept in the dark about what would prompt President Biden to order the use of nuclear weapons on their behalf, as North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has grown in both size and skill.

There have been proposals for South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons in response to concerns that Washington may desert Seoul.

President Yoon alarmed politicians in Washington in January when he suggested the prospect of creating nuclear weapons, which had not been addressed in decades.

This move signaled to the United States that soothing words and gestures would no longer suffice.

If the United States was to deter South Korea from pursuing its own nuclear program, it needed to provide concrete solutions.

President Yoon also stated that he intended to make tangible progress during his state visit to the United States.

As a result, South Korea’s involvement in nuclear planning, according to Duyeon Kim of the Center for a New American Security,

Duyeon Tabletop exercises used to complete before the decision to use nuclear bombs, according to Kim, because such knowledge was considered too sensitive to divulge.

However, considering the types of nuclear weapons being developed by North Korea, it is critical to practice and train for such eventualities.

While the new Nuclear Consultative Group signals an increase in South Korean government involvement, the broader question is whether it will soothe public worries.

It is vital to remember that this agreement does not ensure the United States’ unconditional commitment to use nuclear weapons in defense of South Korea if North Korea attacks.

President Biden stressed during his remarks on Wednesday that a nuclear assault by North Korea on the United States or its allies would not be permitted and would result in the demise of whichever regime had carried out such an act.

In exchange for its vows to assist South Korea in defending against the North Korean nuclear threat, the US has asked South Korea to remain a non-nuclear state and a staunch supporter of nuclear non-proliferation.

The US considers it critical to prevent South Korea from developing its own nuclear weapons, as this could lead to other countries following suit.

Despite these pledges, a sizable number of notable academics, scientists, and members of South Korea’s ruling party continue to advocate for the country to build its own nuclear weapons.

The US commitments may not totally satisfy them.

Dr. Cheong Seong-chang, a leading proponent of South Korean nuclearization, acknowledged that the Washington Declaration had positive aspects, but he lamented that South Korea had openly waived its right to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which he felt strengthened the country’s “nuclear shackles.”

President Biden has declared that the US is still seeking to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table, but North Korea has reportedly turned down multiple invitations to engage without preconditions.

The United States has attempted to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced last year that the country’s nuclear status was “irreversible.”

Some analysts argue that at this juncture, focusing on arms control rather than denuclearisation is more pragmatic.

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