(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 7 paras)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- Philip Goldberg, the top American envoy here, publicly asked South Korea on Wednesday to have confidence in Washington over its "extended deterrence" commitment against North Korean threats.
Goldberg made the remarks at a forum hosted by the Korean Women Journalists Association in Seoul, countering doubts among a growing number of people here regarding whether the U.S. is fully willing and ready to defend South Korea in the face of the North's advancing nuclear and missile programs.
Some even argue that the South should pursue its own nuclear development or the redeployment here of American tactical nukes while others have raised concerns about the negative impact to the health of the alliance in case of Seoul's nuclear pursuit.
The ambassador sought to assure Seoul of Washington's full security commitment, saying that it takes "this responsibility as an ally very very seriously."
"I think that it's understandable that there are people who worry about the future and that's what I'm here to say is that they can rely on the U.S.," he said. "We are fully committed to using all of our resources to make sure that the commitment is real and that all of our deterrence is present to deter any threats here and especially from the DPRK."
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Goldberg added that the U.S. is focused on further engaging in dialogue with its allies to "reassure an understandably anxious Korean population."
"On extended deterrence, we're continuing discussing the whole range of our capabilities with the Yoon (Suk Yeol) administration ... That will continue and I think you'll see further evidence of our willingness and our objective of reassuring the South Korean people if they are not convinced of it till now," he said.
Goldberg was cautious to go into detail when asked about a U.S. think tank's recent report recommending Washington consider the possible deployment of its nuclear weapons to South Korea.
"I'll reiterate our discussions with the government of Korea revolved around our commitments on extended deterrence, which includes discussion on our nuclear capabilities, and this is a conversation that continues, but I'm not going to talk about (the report)," he said.
In the report released last month, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the allies should consider tabletop planning exercises for the possible redeployment.
On whether the South should provide military aid to Ukraine, Goldberg said he has no new announcements to make but added the U.S. is talking to "friends and allies around the world about the provision of more military equipment to Ukraine."
He also said the U.S. will continue to address Seoul's concerns about the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
"We've said, and we continue to say, that we know there are concerns about certain aspects of the IRA when it comes to tax credits for electric vehicles, and we've worked with the government and with the industry, with Hyundai and Kia, to try to come up with solutions," he said.
In his opening address, Goldberg also noted the allies are "proud" of how the South Korea-U.S. relationship has "transformed into a vast global strategic partnership" as the two countries mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their military alliance this year.