South Korea Joint Security Area

Nothing says it’s time to party quite like a new nuclear weapons deal.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol met with President Joe Biden in Washington last week to talk nuclear weapons, and the two could barely contain their gaiety during a state dinner on Wednesday that included Yoon singing Don McLean’s classic “American Pie,” much to the delight of the political and social elite in attendance.

There was much to celebrate for the war-mongers in Washington because Yoon had earlier agreed that Seoul will not develop its own nuclear weapons for assurances by the U.S. to involve South Korea in its planning and potential use. The agreement was called the Washington Declaration.

Biden vowed that any nuclear attack on South Korea from its neighbor to the north would mean the “end” of the government in Pyongyang. Yoon praised the new deal and called it “unprecedented.” 

The U.S. will not be positioning nuclear weapons on the island, but will show its strength by visiting the peninsula with a nuclear-capable submarine for the first time. 

“We’re not going to be stationing nuclear weapons on the peninsula, but we will have visits to ports, visits of nuclear submarines and things like that,” Biden said. 

Yoon said earlier this year that Seoul would have to consider obtaining or developing tactical nuclear weapons, which would not be a heavy lift for a country with such advanced technology. Up until Yoon made those comments, South Korea has never mentioned publicly the idea of going nuclear since the U.S.’s decision to remove its nukes from the peninsula in 1991.

The U.S. keeps about 30,000 troops in South Korea since the Korean War ended in an armistice. The troops have been stationed there ever since Seoul and Washington signed a treaty of mutual defense. South Korea is the third-largest American military presence outside the U.S. behind Japan and Germany.

Reuters, citing South Korea’s Defense White Paper that was issued in December, reported last month that U.S. Forces Korea maintains about 90 combat planes, 40 attack helicopters, 50 tanks, and about 60 Patriot missile launchers in the country.

China has said the U.S.’s “real goal” in its relationship with South Korea is to form a NATO-type alliance in the Indo-Pacific. Russia also said it opposed the deal because it destabilizes the region. Moscow said It added that the U.S. and NATO’s attempt for “decisive military superiority” in the region would only mean “escalating tension and provoke an arms race,” Reuters reported.

Yoon visited Harvard after his trip to Washington and said, “If we were to accept nuclear weapons by North Korea then South Korea may have to possess nuclear weapons. This is not something we want to see happen.”

TREND FORECAST: While military drills with the U.S. have expanded between the U.S. and South Korea and now the nuclear alliance, the bottom line is that Seoul does a lot of business with Beijing and will not risk losing it despite U.S. pressure. Last year South Korea sold some $160 billion of goods to the Chinese while it exported less than $100 billion to the U.S.

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