The third Nuclear Consultative Group meeting in Seoul, South Korea, this week furthered the already strong relationship between the United States and South Korea, a long-time U.S. ally in the Pacific. 

The Nuclear Consultative Group, a presidential initiative, was co-chaired by Vipin Narang, U.S. acting assistant secretary of defense for space policy, and Cho Chang Lae, South Korea’s deputy minister for national defense policy. U.S. and South Korean officials from the U.S. National Security Council, the South Korean National Security Office, and relevant defense, foreign affairs, intelligence, and military authorities also took part in the meeting. 

The group commended the progress that has been achieved in developing the NCG guidelines document that provides principles and guidelines to maintain and strengthen the credible and effective nuclear deterrence policy and posture of the alliance. Both sides agreed that the guidelines will lay a solid foundation for future work to strengthen U.S.-South Korea cooperation on extended deterrence. 

One important NCG workstream discussed in Seoul focused on joint and combined planning of U.S.-South Korea, conventional-nuclear integration options on the Korean Peninsula. The NCG reaffirmed that integration of South Korea’s conventional capabilities with U.S. nuclear operations “substantively strengthens the allied deterrence and response capabilities against the [North Korea] nuclear and missile threat.”   

Highlighting the alliance’s commitment to continuing cooperation to strengthen deterrence and defense posture, over the next six months the NCG will leverage an interagency simulation, a policy-focused tabletop exercise, called TTX, and a military-to-military TTX to explore improvements to planning and consultation mechanisms. 

Meanwhile in Washington, Richard C. Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and countering weapons of mass destruction policy, participated in a featured conversation at the U.S.-ROK [South Korea] Bilateral Dialogue for Strengthening U.S.-ROK Alliance, co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. He amplified many of the important outcomes emerging from the NCG. 

“Across the board, we’re making progress in the Nuclear Consultative Group,” Johnson said. “Just the establishment of that group, I think, was very important to demonstrate how we are elevating the discussion that we’re having on nuclear deterrence issues, but the work that we’re doing is really key. Whether that’s from information sharing to joint planning and execution.” 

“I think we’re in a very good place,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had this high of a level of collaboration, commitment and trust on extended deterrence than we’ve ever had with the United States and [South Korea].” 

The April 2023 Washington Declaration established the NCG and reaffirmed the U.S.  commitment to South Korea and the Korean people, stating that any nuclear attack by North Korea against South Korea “will be met with a swift, overwhelming and decisive response.” 

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