The United States on Wednesday reinforced its commitment to defend Seoul against any attack from Pyongyang, including sending nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea for the first time in more than 40 years.

The new expanded nuclear deterrence initiative dubbed the Washington Declaration, was unveiled as US President Joe Biden hosted South Korean leader Yoon Suk Yeol on a state visit amid growing concerns over the increased ballistic missile testing by North Korea.

The US president claimed that his administration was “doubling down” its cooperation with South Korea as Pyongyang increases its “challenges.”

“A North Korean nuclear strike against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will kill any regime that carries it out,” Biden said with Yoon in the White House Rose Garden.

However, he stated that the United States is not going to place nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

US nuclear submarines used to make frequent stops in South Korea during the Cold War, but since the North and South agreed to denuclearize, these visits have stopped.

North Korea has repeatedly flouted a 1992 declaration not to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House stated that the “major outcomes” of Biden’s bilateral meeting with Yoon in South Korea “will send a very clear and demonstrable signal” of Washington’s “credibility” in deterrence commitments with the Republic of Korea.

This month, North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile into the waters off its eastern coast, prompting a warning in Japan for residents to take shelter.

The release came after leader Kim Jong-un called for “practical and offensive” warfare capabilities. Pyongyang cut communication lines with Seoul, normally used to de-escalate heavily armed border tensions.

Under the Biden administration, the US-South Korea alliance “has grown well beyond the Korean Peninsula and is now a force for good in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” the adviser declared Monday. White House Homeland Security Officer Jake Sullivan.

The White House gardens and surrounding areas in Washington were festooned with US and South Korean flags side by side as the allies commemorated 70 years of an alliance that has deepened under Biden.

Yoon said he had come to the White House to “look back” and “look forward” to the alliance forged after the Korean War.

“Our alliance was forged in blood in the fight for freedom,” he said. “It is not a compromise alliance… it is a global alliance for freedom, peace and prosperity,” she stated.

Yoon, a newcomer to conservative politics compared to veteran liberal politician Biden, is the first Indo-Pacific leader to come to the Biden White House for a state visit. In its defense priorities, the Biden administration has maintained an “Asia pivot” focused on countering China.

The administration’s proposed defense budget for fiscal year 2024 included $9.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, aimed at boosting Washington’s regional competitiveness vis-à-vis Beijing, and $37.7 billion to modernize US nuclear capabilities.

And the landmark Aukus deal with the UK and Australia is aimed at bolstering Western-aligned Indo-Pacific defense capabilities. Yoon has insisted on the importance of the strategic relationship with the United States.

During his tenure, he has resumed joint military exercises with Washington to prepare for a possible North Korean attack and has collaborated with the United States to reduce reliance on China in the global supply chain. But the Washington-Seoul relationship is not without its challenges.

A recent report from Washington’s Center for a New American Security states, “Allies have diverging preferences for the speed, manner, and degree of partial disengagement with China.”

Seoul maintains deep business ties with Beijing, which, according to the think tank, “will continue to make it vulnerable to Chinese political and economic coercion.”

According to the report, “South Korea’s concern for China has increased as Beijing protects Pyongyang and acts aggressively elsewhere in the region, including Taiwan.”

“But South Korea’s approach to China will continue to be different from that of the United States.”

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in Congress formally introduced legislation this week to welcome Yoon to Washington and underscore his relationship with Seoul as “the lynchpin for safeguarding peace, security, and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and Indo- Peaceful.”

Ellie Sennett