Pentagon official touts robust extended deterrence to S. Korea

A US defense official on Wednesday voiced confidence over the strength of America's "extended deterrence" commitment to South Korea, saying, "We've never been in a better place."

Richard Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and countering weapons of mass destruction policy, made the remarks, highlighting the allies' efforts to reinforce the credibility of the United States' deterrence commitment to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend South Korea.

The efforts culminated in the Washington Declaration that Presidents Yoon Suk Yeol and Joe Biden adopted during their White House summit in April. The declaration included the launch of the Nuclear Consultative Group designed to discuss nuclear planning and strategic issues.

"I will stipulate that I don't think extended deterrence can be any stronger than it is right now with our close allies in the ROK," Johnson said during a forum hosted by the Brookings Institution, a US-based think tank. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

"I really encourage people to read the Washington Declaration and to see the work that we are doing to implement that," he added.

As part of US deterrence endeavors for South Korea, Johnson pointed to visible efforts, namely the recent visit to the Korean Peninsula by a US B-52 strategic bomber, as well as submarine deployments that he said are "by definition not visible."

"I actually feel very confident in where we are right now with the ROK. I think we've never been in a better place," he said.

At the same forum, Robert Einhorn, a former US State Department adviser on nonproliferation and arms controls, stressed the need to seek engagement with the North to avoid miscalculation that could lead to accidental conflict.

"We should set aside, just for the time being, this denuclearization agenda, which North Korea isn't really interested in, and instead shift to a focus on risk reduction whether bilaterally, trilaterally, six-party whatever," he said.

"But to look at various confidence-building communications ... transparency arrangements could reduce the risk of any inadvertent armed conflict," he added. (Yonhap)