South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers an address to a joint session
of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 27, 2023. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
April 26 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to the White House on Wednesday and announced that nuclear-armed submarines will dock in South Korea for the first time in more than 40 years.
Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeted Yoon and South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee in a ceremony Wednesday morning. The two then spoke in the Rose Garden, where Biden pledged to uphold the country's nuclear defense treaty with South Korea in the face of threats from North Korea.
"Our nuclear defense treaty is ironclad," Biden said. "They are particularly important in the face of DPRK's increased threats and blatant violations of U.S. sanctions. At the same time, we are continuing to seek diplomatic breakthroughs with the DPRK."
Yoon said Biden's announcement reaffirmed the country's commitment to deterrence, citing "immediate bilateral presidential consultations in the event of North Korea's nuclear attack, a promise to respond swiftly, overwhelmingly and decisively, using the full force of the alliance, including the United States' nuclear weapons."
Yoon's visit comes "at a critical moment as North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said ahead of the meeting.
The two countries will also set up a nuclear consultative group that will share information on North Korean threats.
Yoon arrived in Washington on Monday for the six-day visit that includes a state dinner Wednesday night at the White House before a Thursday address before Congress that is expected to focus on the North Korea threat.
North Korean President Kim Jong Un has ordered nuclear rocket tests at an unprecedented pace over the past year and recently launched the country's first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could severely challenge missile-defense systems.
Since Yoon took office last May, Seoul and Washington have strengthened defense ties and ramped up joint military drills in the region. However, questions remain about the reliability of U.S. protection over South Korea, with many prominent voices in the country calling for Seoul to establish its own nuclear stockpile.
In recent months, Yoon's administration has sought greater input from the United States while anticipating the need for a strong nuclear response to North Korea.
Ahead of the summit, diplomatic experts touted a multi-dimensional but amicable relationship between the longtime allies when it comes to North Korea and other global matters, like increasing Chinese hostilities and the war in Ukraine.
Yoon's visit, meanwhile, was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the South Korea-U.S. alliance that emerged in the wake of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The two leaders will also discuss tech competition with China, economic issues in key industries, including semiconductors, batteries and electric vehicles, cyber cooperation, climate change mitigation and foreign aid, among other topics.
A delegation of 122 business leaders from South Korea's largest corporations traveled with Yoon in hopes of negotiating contentious aspects of Biden's Inflation Reduction Act and Chips and Science Act.
South Korean tech companies will also seek more clarity on how to navigate Washington's sweeping new tech export controls against China after Yoon sat down Monday with Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos, who announced a $2.5 billion investment by the streaming platform in South Korea over the next four years.