Yoon says deterring N. Korea – not China – is aim of bolstered security ties with US, Japan

Posted on : 2022-09-19 16:37 KST Modified on : 2022-09-19 16:37 KST
The South Korean president said that a bright economic future awaits the North if it opts for denuclearization
President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, wave before jetting off to the UK from Seoul Airbase in Seongnam on Sept. 18. (courtesy of the presidential office)
President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, wave before jetting off to the UK from Seoul Airbase in Seongnam on Sept. 18. (courtesy of the presidential office)

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol criticized his predecessor Moon Jae-in’s administration for being “too ambiguous” in its stances on the US and China, while declaring his own plans for pursuing “predictability” and taking a “more clear position with respect to US-China relations.”

In an interview with the New York Times published on Sunday, Yoon said it was inevitable for Seoul to expand its security cooperation with the US and Japan in response to the growing nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

He also emphasized the differences between his approach and that of the Moon administration, which he accused of giving short shrift to relations with Washington and Tokyo. In the process, he likened Moon to a “student obsessed with only one friend in his classroom: North Korea,” the newspaper reported.

The interview took place in Yoon’s presidential office in Seoul’s Yongsan District on Wednesday, ahead of a seven-day tour of the UK, the US and Canada he left for on Sunday. It is Yoon’s second trip overseas since taking office, with a schedule that includes a keynote speech before the UN General Assembly and bilateral meetings with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Commenting in the interview on the increased threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Yoon said, “I seek to find the answer in strengthening the extended deterrence based on a strong South Korea-US alliance.”

He went on to say that he was prepared to work with Washington to develop a “package of all possible means and methods” to deter North Korean provocations, including the US nuclear umbrella.

“Extended deterrence includes not only the use of nuclear weapons based in American territory [in an emergency situation], but also a package of all possible means and methods to deter nuclear provocations by North Korea,” he stressed.

In a message directed at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he said that a bright economic future awaits if Pyongyang opts for denuclearization.

In a seeming nod to Beijing’s discomfort as its relationship with Washington has recently soured, Yoon stressed that South Korea’s trilateral security cooperation with the US and Japan was meant “to deal with the North Korean threat, not China or other countries.”

In response to the current strain in Seoul’s relations with Tokyo, he shared his hopes of pursuing a “grand bargain” that would include the military sexual slavery and forced labor mobilization issues on the table alongside other matters related to bilateral security cooperation and economic and trade issues.

Departing from Seoul Airbase on Sunday morning with his wife, Kim Keon-hee, Yoon kicked off his official tour in London, where he attended a reception presided over by King Charles III. On Monday, he was scheduled to attend the late Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.

From there, Yoon is scheduled to travel to New York to deliver a keynote speech Tuesday before the UN General Assembly. Summits with the US and Japan are also part of his New York schedule.

On Friday, he is scheduled to hold a summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter; Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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