(Washington) US President Joe Biden welcomed his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk Yeol to the White House with great fanfare on Wednesday, the two leaders expected to announce a strengthening of the US security umbrella for this key ally against Korea. North.
President Yoon, who is on a six-day state visit to the United States, arrived to the cheers of a few hundred people gathered outside the White House and received military honors in a well-rehearsed ceremony.
This is only the second state visit by a foreign leader under President Biden, following that of French President Emmanuel Macron last December.
In brief remarks before their meeting, Mr. Biden hailed “an unbreakable bond” between the two countries and their “unbreakable alliance” initiated during the Korean War seven decades ago.
The two leaders must meet in the Oval Office, then hold a joint press conference before participating with their wives in a gala dinner in the evening.
The “occasional” deployment of the nuclear-tipped ballistic missile submarine is among the key measures of a “Washington Declaration” to be adopted by the two leaders on Wednesday.
This declaration also sets up a mechanism for consultation and exchange of information with Seoul on nuclear matters, which aims to strengthen the American security umbrella and reassure the South Korean ally.
“The United States hasn’t taken such action, really, since the days of the Cold War with a handful of our closest allies in Europe,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
“We seek to ensure that in taking these steps our commitment to enhanced deterrence is unquestioned,” he added.
North Korea has conducted a record level of ballistic missile launches this year.
Another official, also on condition of anonymity, assured that the United States had no intention of stationing nuclear weapons in South Korea.
In addition, Seoul will reaffirm in the declaration its commitment not to seek to acquire its own nuclear arsenal.
For the United States, it is a question of making “our deterrent system more visible through the deployment at regular intervals of strategic means”, said the official.
Besides the submarines, there will be “a regular cadence of visits from bombers and aircraft carriers”. But there will be no “parking of these assets or nuclear weapons,” he said.
The official claimed that US authorities had warned China beforehand to explain “the reasoning” behind these measures, while Beijing is likely to denounce a new escalation in the region.
He again expressed Washington’s “disappointment” that Beijing did not “use its influence” on Pyongyang.
Presidents Biden and Yoon will take further steps on cyber, economic and climate change cooperation on Wednesday.
Arriving in the capital on Monday, the South Korean president visited Arlington Cemetery on Tuesday, as well as NASA’s Goddard Space Center near Washington, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris.
He also visited Tuesday evening with President Biden at the Korean War Memorial, located in the center of the capital and showing human-sized steel figurines of soldiers on patrol during the Korean War (1950-1953) against the Communist North.