10 July 2023

South Korean leader to speak on North’s nuclear ambitions at Nato summit

10 July 2023

South Korea’s president says it is time to clearly demonstrate strong international resolve to deter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Yoon Suk Yeol will attend the annual Nato summit being held this year in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a two-nation trip that includes a stop in Poland.

He said: “Now is the time to clearly demonstrate that the international community’s determination to deter North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme is stronger than North Korea’s desire to develop nuclear weapons.”

It is the second consecutive year that Mr Yoon will take part in the summit, underscoring his push to deepen ties with the world’s biggest military alliance.

South Korea faces a mix of security challenges, including North Korea’s nuclear programme and the US-China strategic rivalry.

Last year, he became the first South Korean leader to attend a Nato summit when he took part in Spain.

In written responses to questions from The Associated Press ahead of his departure, Mr Yoon said South Korea will stress at the Nato meeting the importance of international co-operation against “North Korea’s illegal acts”.

He also said a new Nato-South Korean document will take effect at the summit to institutionalise co-operation in 11 areas, including non-proliferation and cybersecurity.

North Korea’s headlong pursuit of reliable nuclear weapons has taken on new urgency after it test flew more than 100 missiles and openly threatened to use nuclear weapons in potential conflicts with South Korea and the United States since the start of last year.

In response to North Korea’s missile tests, Mr Yoon, a conservative who took office in 2022, took steps to beef up his country’s own missile capability and expand military drills with the United States.

Mr Yoon and US President Joe Biden in April announced plans to reinforce their countries’ deterrence capabilities, such as the periodic docking of a US nuclear-armed submarine in South Korea and the establishment of a new bilateral nuclear consultative group, whose inaugural meeting is slated for next week in Seoul.

In its typical, fiery rhetoric, North Korea’s Defence Ministry warned on Monday the deployment of the US submarine may incite “the worst crisis of nuclear conflict in practice”. It also threatened to shoot down US spy planes.

South Korea’s military countered it maintains a readiness to repel potential North Korean provocations.

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