By Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com
The US will dock nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea for the first time since the 1980s in a significant escalation that will raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and risk provoking a response from Pyongyang.
The deployment is part of an agreement announced by President Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is visiting Washington. The US previously had nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea but withdrew them in 1991.
US officials said the nuclear-armed submarines will only “visit” South Korea and that the US won’t permanently deploy nukes to the country. But under the deal, the temporary deployment of US strategic assets to the peninsula will become much more frequent.
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The US and South Korea have also agreed to increase cooperation on nuclear weapons by forming a “consultative group.” According to The New York Times, the US will give South Korea a role in strategic planning for the use of nuclear weapons in any conflict with North Korea.
In exchange, South Korea has agreed not to pursue building its own nuclear weapons. Yoon previously flirted with the idea, making him the first South Korean leader to suggest Seoul could develop nukes since 1991.
The agreement comes as there’s no sign of the tensions on the Korean Peninsula easing. The US and South Korea continue to conduct massive war games while Pyongyang has launched a huge number of missile tests and is warning it can develop more nuclear weapons.
Yoon took office last year and vowed to take a harder line against North Korea than his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who favored Korean reunification. His visit to Washington came after leaked Pentagon documents exposed US spying on Korean officials, but Yoon said the revelation won’t damage ties.
Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.