US subs in ROK raise concern

US President Joe Biden and the Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol at an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. (ZHAO HUANXIN / CHINA DAILY)

The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have vowed to bolster nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula, unveiling a plan to dock American nuclear-armed submarines in the ROK for the first time in decades while issuing verbal threats in a development that could flare up tensions.

"We're not going to be stationing nuclear weapons on — on the peninsula, but we will have visits to — port visits of nuclear submarines and things like that," US President Joe Biden said at a news conference with visiting ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol on Wednesday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden.

Yoon said the arrangement under the declaration is "a new level of extended deterrence, much stronger" to a nuclear threat

The United States withdrew its last tactical nuclear weapons from the ROK in 1991.

READ MORE: S. Korea's Yoon to meet Biden as doubts grow over nuke umbrella

Earlier in the day, Biden and Yoon announced the establishment of a new nuclear consultative group in their Washington declaration to strengthen extended deterrence, discuss nuclear and strategic planning, and manage the threat to the nonproliferation regime they said was "posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)".

On one hand, Biden and Yoon agreed that diplomacy with the DPRK is the "only viable" means of achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and called on Pyongyang to return to negotiations.

But on the other hand, deterrence far outweighed diplomacy in their joint statement, which could also be felt at the joint press meeting.

At the news conference that followed an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, Yoon said the arrangement under the declaration is "a new level of extended deterrence, much stronger" to a nuclear threat, while Biden issued a warning that such an attack would "result in the end of whatever regime" took such action.

Biden's warning underscored "a broad turn from diplomacy to deterrence", according to a New York Times report, which said Biden's blunt language about bringing about the end of a regime was reminiscent of his "bellicose" predecessor, Donald Trump.

US President Joe Biden and the Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol hold a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday afternoon. (ZHAO HUANXIN / CHINA DAILY)

In early August 2017, Trump threatened Pyongyang "with fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it did not stop alleged provocations against the US and its allies, only to be warned by the DPRK several hours later that it was considering a strike that would create "an enveloping fire" in the US territory of Guam in the West Pacific.

While it is unclear how the DPRK would respond to the new US-ROK deterrence plan and Biden's comments, Pyongyang has conducted ballistic missile launch drills as a gesture of warning in response to the US and ROK's unprecedented large-scale joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula since the beginning of the year.

Beijing has made it clear that it consistently upholds peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the denuclearization of the peninsula, the establishment of a peace mechanism, and dialogue and consultation to resolve issues.

READ MORE: South Korea, US plan February nuclear tabletop drills

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin, in commenting on a question from the Yonhap News Agency that cited a report about DPRK's launching of a new type of ballistic missile on April 13, noted that this round of tensions on the peninsula "happened for a reason".

"The US' recent massive military drills near the peninsula and its deployment of strategic weapons apparently had a negative impact," Wang said.

"It is hoped that all parties will remain cool-headed, exercise restraint and stop the pressure and confrontation. The US in particular needs to act as soon as possible to address the legitimate concerns of the DPRK and create conditions for the early alleviation of tensions and resumption of dialogue," he said.