South Korean Presidential Hopeful Seeks US Support to Build Nuclear Subs in Wake of AUKUS Tensions
In mid-September, the US, the UK, and Australia declared the formation of the AUKUS bloc as a platform for defence and security cooperation.
Lee Jae-myung, a South Korean presidential candidate from the governing Democratic Party, has pledged to seek US support to build nuclear-powered submarines to better grapple with threats from North Korea.
In an interview with Reuters and two other media outlets, Lee singled out his push for Washington's assistance in light of Australia clinching a defence pact with the US and the UK earlier this year to create its own nuclear submersibles.
"It is absolutely necessary for us to have those subs. They are not weaponised in themselves, and technology transfer is under way to Australia. We can definitely convince the United States, and we have to", the presidential hopeful pointed out.
He dismissed the idea of seeking assistance from France or any other country, stressing that "it is the matter of whether we will keep the deal with Washington or not, and whether we can persuade them or not".
The remarks came after Australia, the US, and the UK announced the new trilateral defence partnership AUKUS on 15 September, which prompted Canberra to give up on a $66 billion contract with France to develop 12 state-of-the-art diesel attack subs, as AUKUS vowed to enhance Australia's fleet with nuclear-powered submarines.
This prompted an angry reaction from France, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accusing Australia of betraying the mutual trust between the countries and dubbing Canberra's move "a stab in the back".
As for the relations between the two Koreas, Pyongyang said earlier this year that it is ready for a new summit with its southern neighbour to agree on a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
The sister of Kim Jong-un, the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), for her part, stated at the time that the peace talks could proceed if there was respect and impartiality from their southern neighbour, the Republic of Korea (ROK).
The DPRK is still officially at war with both the ROK and the US after the 1953 armistice ended hostilities in a bloody conflict on the Korean Peninsula, although there have been periods of d√©tente between Seoul and Pyongyang.
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