By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – For the first time since the 1980s, a U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SNLE) is in South Korea, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday, as allies began talks to coordinate responses in the event of a nuclear attack. war with North Korea.
White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell confirmed the visit, which was expected after the visit was announced in a joint statement during a summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and the US President. Joe Biden in Washington in April.
“As we speak, an American nuclear submarine is calling at Busan today, the first visit by an American nuclear submarine in decades,” Campbell told reporters during a briefing. in Seoul, where he attended the first discussion of the Nuclear Advisory Group (NCG). with South Korean officials.
The group, aiming to better coordinate an allied nuclear response in the event of war with North Korea, was also announced at the April summit amid growing calls in South Korea for its own nuclear weapons, a step at which Washington opposes.
Campbell said the visit to the submarine was a manifestation of American commitments to the defense of South Korea.
South Korea’s senior deputy national security adviser Kim Tae-hyo, who co-chaired the meeting with Campbell, said the talks were sufficient to ensure South Korea did not need to develop its own nuclear weapons.
The two sides agreed to facilitate information sharing, coordination and planning in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, which would face an “overwhelming” allied response, Kim added.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the new nuclear advisory group would be a “starting point” for building a strong and effective deterrent against North Korea.
“Through a South Korea-US alliance upgraded to a new nuclear-based paradigm, we will make substantial efforts to fundamentally block North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Yoon said during the briefing. a press briefing.
China and North Korea have criticized the formation of the group as further increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
On Monday, North Korea, which tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week, condemned the NCG for “openly discussing the use of nuclear weapons” and warned against allied plans to increase displays of military force, including so-called “strategic assets”. such as US aircraft carriers, bombers and submarines.
When asked if South Korea would play a role in US nuclear war planning, a senior US administration official told Reuters the group was more focused on sharing information.
“A big part of the goal here is to make sure our South Korean allies have more transparency, more access, a more direct link to planning, so they can understand how government officials have been thinking since a long time to what is happening in defense and deterrence for South Korea,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Ju-min Park and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul; Editing by Ed Davies, Stephen Coates, Lincoln Feast. and Michael Perry)