The United States remains committed to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to defend South Korea from North Korean aggression, U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Friday.
Speaking alongside South Korean foreign minister Park Jin at a press conference, Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to improving its allied defense against common threats and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
He referred to the U.S.-South Korea alliance as “the linchpin” of peace in the region and said that it seeks to boost trilateral security cooperation with Japan to deter North Korea’s missile provocations.
“We are committed to defending the Republic of Korea using the full range of our capabilities—nuclear, conventional, missile defense capabilities,” Blinken told reporters in Washington.
“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. Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea.
The two allies agreed to bolster extended deterrence while “maintaining a robust combined defense posture,” Park said, adding that any provocations from North Korea will be met with “a firm and united response.”
“Peace without denuclearization is fake peace. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a direct and serious threat to not only [South] Korea, but also international peace and security,” he said.
They pledged to strengthen efforts to “close loopholes” in U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea and cut off the regime’s “unlawful revenue streams” by countering North Korea’s illicit cyber activities.
Park also called on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a major ally of North Korea, to use its influence to rein in North Korea’s missile launches.
“We agreed that China has a distinct capability and responsibility to influence Pyongyang’s behavior. Denuclearization of North Korea has long been an area of cooperation for China as well as ROK and the United States, and it needs to stay that way,” he said.
President Joe Biden had previously urged the CCP to restrain North Korea from carrying out nuclear tests; and failure to do so would result in the United States taking “certain actions that would be more defensive” in response.
Blinken’s meeting with Park Jin occurred just days after the defense chiefs of both countries agreed to expand their joint military exercises. There are about 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, making it one of the largest U.S. troop deployments around the world.
North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles in 2022, one of which reportedly flew over Japan, and triggered alerts warning citizens in the Hokkaido and Aomori prefectures to take shelter.
In September 2022, North Korea approved a law allowing it to conduct a nuclear strike “automatically” against any “hostile forces” posing an imminent threat.
China Trip Postponed
Blinken said at the press conference that he would delay a trip to China that was supposed to begin on Friday, after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was spotted flying across the United States, which is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty.