Yoon, Biden vow to respond with overwhelming force if N Korea uses nuclear weapons

South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden
South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe BidenTwitter/ @HangukReport

Phnom Penh: President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden warned on Sunday the two countries will respond with "overwhelming force using all available means" if North Korea will use nuclear weapons.

The leaders reached the agreement during a one-on-one summit held in Phnom Penh on the sidelines of regional gatherings amid heightened tensions in the wake of North Korea's unprecedented provocations and concerns the regime could conduct its seventh nuclear test, Yonhap News Agency reported.

"The two leaders shared their serious concern over North Korea's recent unprecedented and aggressive provocations, and agreed to maintain and strengthen the seamless coordination and firm combined defence posture between South Korea and the US," Yoon's office said in a statement.

"Also, they reaffirmed that should North Korea use nuclear weapons in any form, South Korea and the United States will respond with overwhelming force using all available means," it said.

The summit came amid heightened tensions following North Korea's barrage of weapons tests, including a failed test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and its first launch of a ballistic missile over Japan in five years.

Last month, the North also carried out military drills involving units operating "tactical nukes," including simulating nuclear missile strikes on South Korean airports and firing a nuclear-capable missile from under a reservoir.

The North is also widely expected to conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test soon. Yoon stressed the need to demonstrate to the North it has nothing to gain from its nuclear and missile programs, and the need to strengthen the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to South Korea in a practical and bold way in step with North Korea's advancing nuclear capabilities.

"President Yoon asked President Biden to continue to take an interest so that a stronger and more effective extended deterrence regime can be established," the presidential office said. "President Biden reaffirmed the US' ironclad defence and extended deterrence commitment to South Korea, and called for continuing close consultations on ways to strengthen extended deterrence."

The two leaders also addressed South Korea's concerns about the US Inflation Reduction Act, which gives tax credits only to electric vehicles assembled in North America, raising concerns it could act as a trade barrier for South Korean auto companies.

"President Biden said South Korean businesses contribute greatly to the US economy in areas including autos and electric batteries, and that the IRA's implementation should be discussed in consideration of that," the presidential office said.

The summit lasted 50 minutes, which was 20 minutes longer than scheduled, and also covered the allies' cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Yoon explained South Korea's new Indo-Pacific strategy, saying it has decided to formally participate in the Partners in the Blue Pacific initiative launched by the US and other countries. The two leaders agreed to meet again in Washington next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance. Yoon also congratulated Biden on the upcoming wedding of his granddaughter, and the US president expressed his special thanks.

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