(LEAD) U.S. remains committed to using full range of capabilities to defend S. Korea: Blinken
(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from the top diplomats of South Korea, U.S.; CHANGES headline, lead; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) — The United States remains committed to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend South Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday, as people in South Korea are beginning to question the need for their country to consider its own nuclear armament.
The top U.S. diplomat reiterated that there should be no doubt about such U.S. commitment.
“We are committed to defending the Republic of Korea using the full range of our capabilities — nuclear, conventional missile defense capabilities,” Blinken told a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin following their bilateral talks here.
“So there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind, starting with Pyongyang, of our commitment to defend our allies, our partners, our friends, and to extended deterrence,” he added.
Extended deterrence refers to the U.S. commitment to use all its military capabilities to defend South Korea when necessary.
Some in South Korea have begun to question the possibility, as well as the willingness, of the U.S. providing such capabilities in a timely manner amid evolving North Korean nuclear capabilities.
Pyongyang conducted more than 90 missile tests in 2022 alone, while firing 69 ballistic missiles that marked a new record for ballistic missiles launched in a single year. Its previous annual record was 25.
“Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to improving our allied defense against common threats, as well as our commitment to defending the Republic of Korea, using the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities,” said Blinken, referring to South Korea by its official name.
The top U.S. diplomat added the alliance “is the linchpin of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, and is poised to grow stronger still.”
Park stressed the importance of efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“Secretary Blinken and I also reaffirmed our unwavering determination to denuclearize North Korea,” Park said of his talks with his U.S. counterpart. “This is at the forefront and center of our joint efforts to establish sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula. Peace without denuclearization is fake peace.”
Seoul and Washington have said the North may conduct what will be its seventh nuclear test “at any time.”
North Korea conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017.
Park said the allies will work to “close loopholes” in U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea and cut off Pyongyang’s unlawful revenue streams by countering its illicit cyber activities.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a direct and serious threat to not only Korea but also international peace and security,” Park told the joint press conference.
The White House earlier said the North secures up to 30 percent of its funds for its illicit weapons development programs through illegal cyber activities that include cryptocurrency heists and money laundering.
Marking the 70th anniversary of signing the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953, Seoul and Washington will also work to further expand their “Global Comprehensive Strategic Alliance,” according to park.
“We will expand the scope of the alliance to encompass not only political, military, economic partnerships, but also technological and cultural dimensions,” he said.
Following their bilateral talks at the state department, Park and Blinken signed an agreement on science and technology cooperation, which, according to state department spokesperson Ned Price, included new components that will further strengthen the countries’ bilateral cooperation and extend the agreement, originally signed in 1999, by 10 years.