What does extended deterrence mean?

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What does extended deterrence mean?

Cho Hyun-dong

Shin Beom-chul

Cho is the first vice minister of foreign affairs and Shin is the vice minister of national defense.

A new chapter has opened in the field of cooperation between Korea and the United States on extended deterrence. Despite North Korea’s advancing nuclear threats, discussions between Seoul and Washington to determine the specifics of extended deterrence have shown no progress, but foreign and defense vice ministers held an Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (Edscg) meeting in Washington last week for the first time in four years and eight months. The two sides agreed on specifics and strengthened the systemic basis at the meeting. The outcome followed an agreement reached at the summit in May in Seoul to address the growing seriousness of the North’s nuclear and missile development.

When the North’s threats advance, extended deterrence to counter them also must evolve. As we are all aware, the North’s latest movements are worrisome. Major nuclear facilities such as the Yongbyon nuclear plant are still operating, and the North has developed countless missiles that we cannot easily keep track of.

A few days ago, the North made an announcement that it introduced a new law outlining nuclear weapons use. After defining itself as a nuclear weapons state, North Korea did not hide the possibility that it will use nuclear weapons preemptively. Some interpreted the announcement as a signal to engage in dialogue, but that kind of optimistic view has caused today’s situation. We must not rely on vague hopes; we must leave the door for dialogue open yet strengthen our nuclear deterrence.

The U.S. pledge of extended deterrence has become stronger. At the latest meeting, Washington reaffirmed that it will mobilize all military capabilities to defend South Korea. It vowed to use not only existing nuclear and conventional missile defense capabilities but also “other advanced non-nuclear capabilities” such as space, cyber and electronic warfare. Furthermore, the United States did not forget to issue a warning that if the North undertakes any nuclear attack, it will face an overwhelming and decisive response. Uses of tactical nuclear weapons and bio-chemical weapons will not be an exception.

Deploying strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula is an effective tool to directly demonstrate the U.S. will to keep its pledges. Strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines are the core of extended deterrence. Fifth-generation fighter jets such as F-35s and aircraft carriers also have strategic significance. The United States agreed to deploy such assets to defend Korea at a proper time. Furthermore, Washington and Seoul agreed to have closer communication and cooperation.

It is important to note that extended deterrence cooperation, which used to be a message to the North, has advanced to more specific military cooperation. The two countries agreed to discuss measures to deter the North’s threats by using all factors of national powers, including foreign affairs, intelligence, military and economy. At the same time, they agreed to strengthen strategic readiness through military exercises such as command post exercises for various scenarios and improve anti-missile capabilities of the alliance. Korea and the United States also agreed to evaluate the levels of technologies in the new fields of space and cyber warfare and discuss specific cooperation measures that will be mutually and substantially beneficial to each other.

Seoul and Washington also agreed to review and prepare a step-by-step strategy to counter the North’s various nuclear and conventional provocations, including a seventh nuclear test. The two sides agreed to have a thorough preparation to deter and counter all possible advancement of the North’s nuclear and missile threats. Establishing a policy-driven and systemic consultation mechanism between the allies to strengthen deterrent power is an important accomplishment of the recent meeting.

The North may think that it can control Korean Peninsula affairs as it wishes. That is a serious miscalculation. The reality will be the opposite. While it was obsessing with its nuclear programs over the past three decades, the North has become the poorest and most dangerous place on earth. In contrast, the Korea-U.S. alliance has become stronger and firmer. The North will face stronger sanctions and overwhelming alliance deterrence the more it invests itself into the nuclear program. It is a dilemma and self-contradiction the North has brought upon itself.

In his Liberation Day speech in August, President Yoon Suk-yeol proposed an “audacious initiative” to the North that the two Koreas work together to build a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. What path must the North choose if its nuclear arms and missiles will become more useless? The North must wake up and face the reality. 
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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