• Yomiuri Editorial
  • U.S.-South Korea summit

Solid deterrence system must be established quickly

North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are becoming increasingly serious. It is highly significant that the United States and South Korea have confirmed the further strengthening of their alliance and embarked on building a deterrence system in response to the improvement of North Korea’s nuclear capability.

U.S. President Joe Biden visited Seoul and held talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. This is Biden’s first trip to Asia since becoming president. The visit to Seoul will be followed by a Japan-U.S. summit and a Japan-U.S.-Australia-India summit in Tokyo.

The trip could be viewed as an opportunity to show the world that even amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States is not neglecting its emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region and its responses to China and North Korea.

At the U.S.-South Korea summit, Biden reaffirmed the “extended deterrence” with U.S. nuclear weapons, conventional forces and missile defense that guarantees the security of South Korea. Discussions are also expected to begin on the expansion of the scale of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

North Korea has repeatedly launched a variety of ballistic missiles, and there have been signs that it will conduct its first nuclear test in five years. Pyongyang has mentioned the development of tactical nuclear weapons that could be used locally against South Korea and other countries, as well as strategic nuclear weapons that target the U.S. mainland.

Just as Russia has been threatening the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, a situation in which North Korea threatens Japan, the United States and South Korea with nuclear weapons is unacceptable. North Korea must be discouraged from dangerous provocations by enhancing the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella over both Japan and South Korea.

Yoon has expressed the willingness to expand economic and technological cooperation with the United States to help maintain a stable international supply chain. He probably believes that if he aims for equidistant diplomacy with the United States and China, as was the case with the previous administration in South Korea, Seoul will be swallowed up amid the fierce competition between Washington and Beijing.

This is also a good opportunity to improve relations between Japan and South Korea and to strengthen cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea. It is hoped that a major framework to protect the “rules-based international order” will be developed.

The U.S. and South Korean leaders expressed concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus in North Korea and were supportive of assistance from the international community. Infectious diseases should be contained on a global scale: Assistance is needed.

North Korean media have reported high daily tallies of fever cases, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has described the situation as “the great upheaval since the founding of the country.”

North Korea has refused to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the international framework. Its medical system is also extremely fragile. Pyongyang has reportedly imposed lockdowns, but to what extent can it implement effective measures?

Kim is devoting his energy to nuclear development without regard for the welfare of his people. He must realize the error of his ways and work to resolve the plight of North Koreans.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 22, 2022)