South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol asked for the US to return nuclear bombers and submarines to the Korean peninsula during talks in Washington on Wednesday, one of his advisors said, according to Reuters.
The US removed its strategic nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991. Yoon has vowed to take a firmer stance towards the North than outgoing President Moon Jae-in and is seeking the return of US nuclear weapons as part of that plan.
“Deploying the strategic assets is an important element of reinforcing the extended deterrence, and the issue naturally came up during the discussions,” said Park Jin, a South Korean lawmaker who led the delegation.
When asked if the US supported deploying nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula, a White House official said US officials and the South Korean delegation had “discussed generally” Washington’s defense commitments, and did not elaborate further.
The delegation visit came after recent missile tests conducted by North Korea that the US responded to by imposing fresh sanctions. So far, the Biden administration has made no progress in its approach to Pyongyang. Biden officials say they want talks with the North but have maintained sanctions.
The US is also looking to South Korea to help counter China in the region. Yoon has signaled that he’s ready to get on board with the US campaign against China by accusing Moon of being “submissive” to both Beijing and Pyongyang.