News ID: 114265
Publish Date : 24 April 2023 - 23:05

South Korean Leader in U.S. Amid Questions About Alliance

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol set off on Monday for the United States and a summit with President Joe Biden at a time of rare questioning in South Korea of an alliance that has guaranteed its security for decades.
Yoon’s April 24-29 trip is the first state visit to the U.S. by a South Korean leader in 12 years and will mark the 70th anniversary of a partnership that has helped anchor U.S. strategy in Asia.
But as North Korea races ahead with the development of nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them, there are growing questions in South Korea about the relying on “extended deterrence”, in essence the American nuclear umbrella, and calls, even from some senior members of Yoon’s party, for South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons.
A recent poll by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies showed that more than 54% of respondents believed the U.S. would not risk its safety to protect its Asian ally.
Yoon has been pushing to boost South Korea’s say in operating the U.S. extended deterrence but exactly what that might entail has not been spelt out.
Yoon’s deputy national security adviser said both sides had been working on measures to operate the extended deterrence in a more concrete manner, hopefully with progress to be a revealed in a joint statement after the summit.
A senior U.S. official said on Friday that Biden, during the summit with Yoon, would pledge “substantial” steps to underscore U.S. commitments to deter a North Korean nuclear attack.
The Ukraine war, which some in South Korea feel is distracting the United States from dangers in Asia, has also led to some rare friction between Seoul and Washington.
Leaked U.S. documents recently highlighted South Korean difficulties in dealing with pressure from its ally to help with the supply of military aid to Ukraine.
South Korea, a major producer of artillery shells, says it has not provided lethal weapons to Ukraine, citing its relations with Russia. It has limited its support to humanitarian aid.
South Korea tries to avoid antagonizing Russia, due chiefly to business interests and Russian influence over North Korea.
Suggestions reported in media that the United States had been spying on South Korean deliberations about its support to Ukraine have raised hackles in South Korea, though both sides have played the down the issue.