South Korea Talks of Nuking Up: Daniel 7

South Koreans walk past replicas of missiles at the Korean War Memorial.

Talk of a Nuclear Deterrent in South Korea

North Korea’s resumed activity at Yongbyon has reawakened calls for Seoul to go nuclear.

September 9, 2021, 11:50 AM

SEOUL—Recent resumption of activity at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, which is suspected of producing the plutonium needed for the country’s nuclear weapons, has fueled existing convictions among some conservative South Korean politicians that Pyongyang will never agree to give up its nukes so Seoul needs a nuclear deterrent of its own.

The issue has stormed into the early days of the upcoming presidential election, with primary candidates openly pushing for South Korea to host nuclear weapons. Yoo Seong-min, a former lawmaker and primary candidate for the People Power Party, said he would “persuade the U.S. government to sign a nuclear-sharing agreement” with Seoul if he became president. Such an agreement would again allow the deployment of tactical and nonstrategic nuclear weapons on South Korean soil for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Another conservative contender, Hong Joon-pyo, has also argued that a nuclear-sharing agreement is needed lest South Korea end up “slaves to North Korea’s nuclear weapons.”

For some in South Korea, it’s not just about hosting U.S. weapons but also about developing their own. Lee Jong-kul, a representative from the Liberal Party, has said South Korea should “choose tactical nuclear weapons as the last negotiating card” against North Korea. In 2017, a conservative group, the Korean Patriotic Citizens’ Union, organized protests that included chants like “South Korea should immediately begin to arm itself with nuclear weapons.” Nuclear boosterism has grown so much that the leading primary candidate for the Liberal Party, Lee Jae-myung, decried it as “dangerous populism.”

South Korea, which suffered an invasion by its northern neighbor in 1950, is regularly taunted by Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, tests, and parades of increasingly capable missiles.

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“The idea of nuclear weapons in South Korea, in contrast to Japan, has never been fringe. The argument is something like: If North Korea has it, we should have it too,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

According to polls, almost half of all South Koreans surveyed support the development of their own nuclear weapons to deter North Korea’s threat. The urge to unfurl their own nuclear umbrella has grown in recent years due to both Pyongyang’s fissile and missile advances and after four years of former U.S. President Donald Trump disparaging the Korean alliance and urging the country to develop its own nuclear shield.

But it’s not just politicians and polls. South Korea is the latest member of an exclusive club: countries that have successfully firedsubmarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Seven other countries have done that, but they all have nuclear warheads to stick on top. So what are Seoul’s ambitions? 

South Korea “is the only country to develop SLBMs without first developing nuclear weapons, so it makes one wonder,” said Vipin Narang, a professor of nuclear security and political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SLBMs are hidden underwater, so they offer survivability that could ensure South Korea can hit back against a first strike. But hit back with what? 

“Even with a heavy conventional warhead or multiple warheads on each SLBM, does six tubes on a submarine really provide a credible conventional retaliatory capability if all of South Korea’s land-based missiles were wiped out?” Narang asked.

Read More

South Korean President Moon Jae-in

Moon Wants a Legacy on North Korea That Isn’t Coming

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un listens to US President Donald Trump (not pictured) during a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 27, 2019. (

North Korea Needs the Bomb to Protect Itself From America

It’s not the only nuke-adjacent technology being advanced. With the removal of the country’s range cap on its missiles, South Korea is pushing for missiles that can carry bigger payloads for longer distances. Those “would be good delivery vehicles” if Seoul ever thought about developing nuclear weapons, Narang said.

The problem is nuclear weapons would not actually deliver security for South Korea. Pyongyang has an arsenal of its own and knows it can poke and prod—whether through cyberattacks or other conventional provocations—with little fear.

“In terms of South Korea’s security, nuclear weapons do very little,” Lewis said. “A nuclear-armed North Korea can be much more aggressive in terms of conventional provocations because [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un knows he is safe from being invaded by the United States or South Korea. South Korean nuclear weapons don’t solve this problem.”

It’s much like the problem facing Israel, which is widely believed to have its ownnuclear capability yet has fought vehemently for years to constrain Iran’s ability to enrich enough uranium to build a bomb.

“Israel has nuclear weapons but is terrified of Iran getting them. Why don’t the Israelis believe deterrence will protect them? Because they are worried that a nuclear-armed Iran will be much more aggressive in terms of using proxies to attack them,” Lewis said. “It’s a very similar problem for South Korea.”

In addition to not delivering deterrence, South Korean nuclear weapons could end up blowing up the Korean economy. It’s one of the most trade-dependent countries on Earth, with trade making up about 70 percent of the country’s GDP; those export industries are dependent on its status as a proliferation-limiting state. A particular concern could be the country’s successful civilian nuclear energy program. South Korea is halfway through a 20-year plan to export 80 nuclear reactors worth $400 billion—deals that could be jeopardized if South Korea opts for proliferation. 

“South Korea is very much a trade-dependent country, basically an economy based on the international economy, and the repercussions from developing nuclear weapons will damage this,” said Yim Man-sung, director of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Education and Research Center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Seoul. 

South Korea, a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, could withdraw from the accord. But that would create a cascade of legal liabilities, especially for the multibillion-dollar exports of civilian nuclear technology. And that, once realized, could take the wind out of the South Korean public’s push for nukes of their own.

“Initially, when people know nothing about the implications, they may say, ‘oh, we should develop nuclear weapons.’ But once they realize the implications, repercussions of that decision, most of them say no,” Yim said.

South Korea Prepares to go Nuclear: Daniel 7

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his country's Sept. 15 test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile was not aimed at North Korea, but "can be a clear deterrent to North Korea’s provocations." (Photo by South Korea's Ministry of National Defense)

October 2021
By Kelsey Davenport

South Korea launched a ballistic missile from a submarine in September, making it the first country without nuclear weapons to develop that capability.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his country’s Sept. 15 test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile was not aimed at North Korea, but “can be a clear deterrent to North Korea’s provocations.” (Photo by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense)The Defense Ministry in Seoul described the launch as a success and said the missile “accurately hit its target.” The submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability is “an important milestone” that will “contribute to realizing a strong national defense and a solid military readiness posture,” according to a Sept. 15 statement.

The SLBM test took place several hours after North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from a train and four days after it tested a new land-attack cruise missile.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was present for the launch, said on Sept. 15 that the test was “not a response to North Korea’s provocations.” But he noted that “the reinforcement of our missile capabilities can be a clear deterrent to North Korea’s provocations.”

The missile was tested from South Korea’s domestically built attack submarine, the Dosan An Chang-ho, which was commissioned in August. (See ACT, September 2021.) It is the first of three submarines capable of carrying six ballistic missiles that South Korea plans to deploy. South Korean news outlets reported that the submarine successfully fired an SLBM on Sept. 7, but the South Korean government has only confirmed the Sept. 15 launch. Prior to the submarine launches, South Korea conducted test launches from a submerged barge and from a ground-based test facility. The Defense Ministry said it will conduct further tests before an SLBM is deployed on the Dosan An Chang-ho.

States generally pursue SLBMs in order to provide a survivable, second-strike nuclear capability. Given that South Korea is an ally of the United States and covered by its extended nuclear deterrent, including U.S. SLBMs, it is unclear why South Korea views this capability as necessary and worth the risk of continuing to drive the missile race between North and South Korea.

Defense Department spokesman James Kirby said in a Sept. 20 press briefing that the United States is working closely with South Korea to ensure “complementary military capabilities” that are “commensurate with the continued threats that we see on the peninsula.”

Although North Korea is developing its own SLBM capability and has tested missiles from a submerged barge, officials in Pyongyang decried South Korea’s SLBM capability as detrimental to peace on the peninsula and used the test to justify its own continued missile development.

Kim Jo Jong, vice department director of the Worker’s Party of Korea, in a Sept. 15 statement questioned why Moon is “repeatedly calling for backing peace with a powerful force.” Kim, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, criticized Moon for accusing North Korea of provocations and said South Korea has an “illogical and stupid habit of describing its act as a just one supporting peace and describing [North Korea’s] act of similar nature as one threatening peace.” North Korea’s tests are part of the country’s established self-defense plan, she said.

Pyongyang also sought to downplay the South Korean SLBM by questioning the veracity of the test. North Korea’s Academy of National Defence issued a statement Sept. 20 saying that the photos of the SLBM that South Korea released “could have deliberately been retouched” and that the missile looked more like a short-range ground-based ballistic missile that South Korea had already developed. The statement claimed that the weapon “has not yet reached the stage of being regarded as a weapon of strategic and tactical significance.”

South Korea’s SLBM test comes amid an expansion of the country’s military capabilities and continued debate over the country’s status as a non-nuclear-weapon state. In addition to the SLBM capability, South Korea has increased its military spending under Moon and invested in several new weapons systems. (See ACT, September 2021.)

Public support for South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons reached a new high in 2020 with 69 percent of the population voicing support, according to a Sept. 13 report from the Asian Institute. Since the institute began polling on this question, support for an indigenous nuclear weapons program was the lowest in 2018, when 55 percent of the population supported the idea.

In the 2020 poll, 61 percent supported reintroducing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula, a view that one leading candidate for South Korea’s presidential election in March has also endorsed.

Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative, said that if elected he would support a nuclear sharing agreement with the United States. Lee Jae-myung, the likely candidate from Moon’s party, opposes nuclear sharing, arguing that it diminishes South Korea’s credibility in demanding that North Korea denuclearize.

In 1991, the United States removed nuclear weapons that it had based in South Korea.

The Korean nuclear horn advances

The Hwasong-8 missile firing into the sky in North Korea, according to state media
North Korean state media released a photo which it said was the Hwasong-8 missile

North Korea says it fired new ‘hypersonic missile’

14 hours ago

North Korea has claimed that it successfully tested a new hypersonic missile called Hwasong-8 on Tuesday.

State media said the new missile was one of the “five most important” new weapons systems laid out in its five-year military development plan.

They called the missile a “strategic weapon”, which usually means it has nuclear capabilities.

Tuesday’s launch is another indication of Pyongyang’s growing weapons technology amid strict sanctions.

“The development of this weapons system…[has increased] the nation’s capabilities for self-defence in every way,” North Korean state news outlet KCNA said. 

Tuesday’s launch also saw North Korea introduce missile fuel ampoule for the first time – described by North Korea analyst Ankit Panda as a “significant milestone”.

This is a technology that allows missiles to be pre-fuelled and then sent to the field in canisters. This means it could potentially stay launch-ready for years.

The latest launch also marked the country’s third missile test this month. It has already revealed a new type of cruise missile, as a well as a new train-launched ballistic missile system.

Yesterday’s launch came as its North Korean envoy Kim Song defended the country’s right to develop weapons at the annual UN General Assembly in New York. 

Mr Kim said the country was “building up our national defence in order to defend ourselves and reliably safeguard the security and peace of the country”.

What is a hypersonic missile?

Hypersonic missiles are much faster and more agile than normal ones, making them much harder for missile defence systems to intercept.

North Korea joins a small pool of countries, including the United States, Russia, China and India, in attempting to develop the weapons. In July Russia announced that it had successfully launched a hypersonic missile which reached a speed of 8659.88km/h (5381mph) from a frigate in the White Sea. 

KCNA said the test launch confirmed the “navigational control and stability of the missile”.

Mr Panda, a Stanton Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it was difficult at this point to assess the “precise capabilities” of the missile, but added that it could “presumably present a very different challenge for missile defence from traditional ballistic missiles”. 

This addition of the missile fuel ampoule means the weapon would be ready to be fired straight away. If it doesn’t need to be fuelled out in the field, it means the launch time is much quicker. The quicker launch time also means it’s more difficult for other countries to make a pre-emptive strike.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had at an earlier meeting in January declared that scientists had “finished research” into developing hypersonic gliding warheads. Tuesday’s test was the first for this new system. 

“The push to develop a hypersonic glider isn’t all too surprising given that Kim Jong Un had indicated this back in January,” said Mr Panda. 

“This is, however, a reminder that Mr Kim’s missile ambitions are far from having run their course.”

However, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said they believed this hypersonic missile was still at an early stage of development and it will take a considerable period of time before it can be deployed in combat. They added that both South Korea and the US are currently capable of detecting and intercepting this missile.

What do we know about North Korea’s weapons programme?

North Korea’s recent tests – this was the third one fired this month alone – indicate that it is ramping up its weapons programme. 

KCNANorth Korea earlier tested a cruise missile

The US has been calling for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, and Pyongyang’s relationship with President Joe Biden’s administration has so far been fraught with tension.

Japan and North Korea also have enduring tensions rooted in Japan’s 35-year colonisation of Korea (1910-1945), Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear and missile programmes, and the North’s past abduction of Japanese citizens.

Despite this, Pyongyang seems determined to prove it will continue to develop new weapons systems, saying they are needed for its own self-defence.

It has also repeatedly accused South Korea of double standards over military activities.

South Korea recently tested its first submarine-launched ballistic missile, which it said was needed as deterrence against North Korea’s “provocations”. 

Last month the UN atomic agency said North Korea appeared to have restarted a reactor which could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, calling it a “deeply troubling” development.Why does North Korea keep launching missiles?

The February 2020 deal set a date for the US to pull out and strengthened the Taliban, generals say.

South Korea Prepares to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

Nuclear Weapons in South Korea? Not So Fringe Anymore.

Don’t be taken aback if one of the hottest issues for South Korea’s upcoming presidential election is nuclear weapons—more specifically, the need for South Korea to possess its own. While North Korea has refrained from nuclear weapons testing since 2017, the progress they demonstrated in the past has moved the nuclear debate to the forefront of South Korean society. This year, Kim Jong-un’s remarks about strengthening the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear arsenal delivered at the recent Eighth Party Congress was enough for South Korean conservatives to once again stand in favor of developing their own nuclear weapons. With the South Korean presidential election in March 2022 quickly approaching, political discourse in Seoul about nuclear armament is a trend not to be ignored by the U.S. government.

Hawkish voices in favor of nuclearization in South Korea are not new. Since 2006, the year of DPRK’s first nuclear test, the South Korean public and right-leaning politicians have consistently voiced concerns about South Korea’s national security in the context of an unpredictable and nuclear North Korea. Key members of leading conservative parties over the years have often cited the tenuous credibility of America’s extended deterrence and the asymmetrical security environment on the Korean Peninsula—with the Republic of Korea (ROK) only possessing conventional weapons—as reasons to pursue nuclear options. Such options range from the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, a “NATO-style” nuclear-sharing agreement with the United States, or even an indigenous nuclear arsenal. 

In the past, U.S. nuclear experts have been hesitant to acknowledge ROK’s nuclear debate as part of the mainstream global political discourse. However, recent statements from leading conservatives in Seoul show that the idea of a nuclear-armed ROK has evolved from a fringe argument to now potentially a serious component of the conservative party platform. Last month, Yoo Seung-min, a former member of the National Assembly and one of People Power Party’s (PPP) presidential candidates, proclaimed, “it is unrealistic to prevent us from our own nuclear armament when North Korea has not given up its nuclear weapons yet.” This month, Assemblyman Hong Joon-pyo, another PPP presidential candidate, argued in a recent Facebook post that North Korea’s continuing nuclear developments have South Korea on the verge of “becoming its nuclear slave,” unless ROK pursues a “NATO-style nuclear-sharing policy to correct the inter-Korean nuclear imbalance.”

Low approval ratings of Moon Jae-in’s administration since 2020 and PPP’s victories in the recent mayoral elections for Seoul and Busan, the two largest cities in South Korea, reflect the current political climate in ROK. It consists of a dissatisfied South Korean public with the liberal government and an opposition party leveraging such sentiment to its advantage. The recent mayoral results and current polls may not offer any definite outlook into the outcome of the upcoming presidential bout, but they do preface a competitive contest between the ruling Democratic Party and the opposing PPP, whose leaders champion a dangerous pro-nuclear policy. 

Whichever of three nuclear options the country may pursue, the harms of a nuclear ROK outweigh the potential benefits. While the presence of nuclear weapons may provide South Korea a sense of security against the North, it is also likely to make nuclear weapons a permanent reality on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, a South Korea with nuclear weapons plays into Pyongyang’s view of a hostile and imprudent Seoul, fueling tensions in the region. Furthermore, North Korea is likely to view a South Korean indigenous nuclear program as a pretext for further strengthening its own nuclear capabilities.

In addition, ROK’s nuclear armament complicates the continued goal of achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a key concept throughout decades of engagement with DPRK. Past negotiations have delivered key documents on denuclearization, including the 1992 Joint Declarationthe 2005 Six-Party Joint Statementthe Panmunjom Declaration, and the Singapore Summit Joint Statement in 2018. North Korea embraced these agreements with the understanding of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as a reciprocating, two-way streak of both North and South Koreas committing to a nuclear zero. If ROK decides to nuclearize, then North Korea will have one less reason to honor such arrangements and start disarming.   

A nuclear South Korea is also likely to upset the U.S.-ROK alliance, a relationship already strained with several points of tension. Such pressure points include Moon’s impatient push to expedite the transfer of operational control authority in wartime (OPCON) to the ROK military, postponement of joint exercises for political reasons, and the broadening scope of the U.S.-ROK military cooperation on a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region and relations with China. Therefore, a new administration pursuing nuclear armament may come off as a sign of distrust toward the United States extended deterrence and by extension, a U.S.-ROK alliance already burdened by recent challenges. In pursuit of a “better” security guarantee, South Korea may ruin its current security guarantee.  

If the Biden administration continues to show a lack of diplomatic progress with Pyongyang, then the conservatives’ call for nuclear weapons for a “safer” ROK will not simply fade away.   

In order to better assure America’s ally about its extended deterrence, the Biden administration needs to re-examine the current deterrence arrangements and modify it to better address the changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula and East Asia as a whole—before South Korea takes matters into its own hands.

William Kim is a researcher at the Stimson Center’s 38 North Program. A graduate of Boston College, he has previously worked with Congressman Adam Smith and the House Armed Services Committee.

Why South Korea is about to go nuclear: Daniel 7

How the Afghanistan Withdrawal Looks from South Korea, America’s Other ‘Forever War’

U.S. President Joe Biden this week was asked what the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan means for Washington’s other global military commitments. In response, Biden stressed the “fundamental difference” between Afghanistan and places like South Korea, where the U.S. also has a major troop presence. 

It would be hard, if not impossible, to find a South Korean who disagrees with that assessment. There are obvious differences between Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest and least-developed countries, and South Korea, a stable democracy and U.S. treaty ally that has the world’s 10th largest economy and sixth most powerful military.

Yet, the messy U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, and the ensuing Taliban takeover, has intensified questions here about how much South Korea should depend on long-term U.S. military protection and whether Seoul should do more to look after its own defense. Specifically, it may amplify voices who want South Korea to pursue its own nuclear deterrent.

The U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, a remnant of the 1950s Korean War that ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. Although it has been decades since major hostilities, U.S. troops remain as a deterrent to the nuclear-armed and often belligerent North Korea.

Few think the U.S. military will withdraw from South Korea anytime soon. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said this week the U.S. has “no intention of drawing down forces” from South Korea.

Analysis: What Does Fall of Kabul Mean for North Korea? 

Experts are debating how the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan could affect Pyongyang 

What explains the concerns?  

Doubts about long-term U.S. military commitment are rooted partly in South Korea’s experience with former U.S. President Donald Trump, whose “America First” foreign policy consistently strained the seven-decade-old alliance.

Trump not only demanded South Korea pay a bigger share of the cost of U.S. troops, he at times questioned whether the troops were necessary at all. 

As a candidate, Trump even suggested South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons, and threatened to withdraw troops from both countries, if they did not pay more for protection.

Those kinds of statements are hard to forget, said Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. 

“South Korea has experienced the past four years under the Trump administration, and we are not 100% sure the U.S. won’t go back to this,” Park said.

Larger US trends at play

Trump isn’t the only factor for South Korea to consider. Growing segments on both sides of the U.S. electorate are skeptical of U.S. military involvement overseas.

Many Trump-allied Republicans now oppose what they call U.S. “forever wars.” On the left, high-profile politicians, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, call for drastically reducing the Pentagon budget, along with a more restrained global agenda. 

Those views are concerning to Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean lieutenant general, who worries many Americans don’t see the value in having troops in South Korea. 

“They don’t realize the stability that comes with it. They don’t realize the security that comes with that stability. They don’t realize the economic benefits that come from that stability and security. And that really concerns me,” Chun said.

Kim Yong Chol singled out Seoul for what he said was a missed opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations by going ahead with the drills

Nuclear concerns

The U.S.-South Korea alliance already faced significant challenges, mostly from North Korea.

Although South Korea’s conventional forces are vastly superior to the North’s, Pyongyang has one thing that Seoul doesn’t, nuclear weapons. Instead, South Korea relies on the so-called U.S. nuclear umbrella of protection.

In recent years, though, there have been more calls for South Korea to pursue nuclear weapons in some form, either through domestic development or the restationing of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that were removed in the early 1990s.

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, there have already been renewed calls for South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons.

In a Facebook post this week, conservative South Korean lawmaker Thae Yong-ho proposed Seoul pursue either a NATO-style nuclear sharing arrangement or that it restore U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.

If North Korea does not denuclearize by 2027, Thae said, the South “should present a strategic timetable to the United States and China and announce that we will inevitably pursue nuclear development.” 

“The lesson for us from the Afghan crisis is that there are no permanent enemies or permanent allies in this world. There is only national interest,” said Thae, who defected to South Korea after working as a North Korean diplomat.

South Korea briefly pursued an illicit nuclear program in the 1970s, when there were also concerns about U.S. military commitment. It abandoned that effort several years later.

In recent years, some opinion polls suggest the South Korean public would support domestic nuclear weapons development.

“The very serious and fundamental problem is that we, South Korea, do not have any capability of nuclear deterrence. We have to rely 100% on the United States,” Park said.US Lt. Col. Douglas Hayes and Republic of Korea Army Col. Seong Ik Sung discuss the progress of a coordinated, joint artillery exercise May 10, 2016. (US Army photo)

Sovereignty debate

Another point of alliance tension is whether and at what speed South Korea should regain more control of its forces during a hypothetical war.

In 1950, South Korea handed command authority of its troops to the U.S. in order to fend off a North Korean attack during the early stages of the Korean War. The U.S. retained that authority until 1994, when South Korea assumed peacetime “operational control” of its forces.

Under the current arrangement, the U.S. would still control certain aspects of South Korea’s military if war broke out. Some left-leaning South Korean politicians object to that prospect and want the arrangement to be changed as soon as possible. 

Song Young-gil, who heads South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party, said the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is the latest evidence Seoul should speed up the so-called “OPCON transition.” 

“If you have no experience in planning and executing your own operations, you do not know what kind of trouble you will face as a nation,” Song said in a Facebook post.

Chun, the former lieutenant-general, disagreed. Such a transition, he said, could jeopardize the U.S.-South Korea alliance, ultimately making South Korea less safe.

“South Koreans need to realize that if we have OPCON transition there’ll be a possibility of a disconnect between the two allied forces who are right now attached at the hip,” Chun said. 

The issue already causes friction in the U.S.-South Korea relationship, though mostly beneath the surface. 

The U.S. and South Korea agreed in 2018 to begin a three-stage process for assessing whether Seoul is ready to regain wartime control. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says he would like to complete the transfer by the end of his term in May 2022. U.S. officials, however, warn against imposing a time limit, saying the transition should instead be conditions-based.

Any attempt to rush the issue will “do damage to the relationship we have right now,” Chun said. “And the relationship we have right now is pretty good,” he added. 

Ties growing

In fact, the U.S.-South Korea alliance has recently expanded to focus on other regional and global issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and China’s growing assertiveness.

Many South Korean analysts believe the Korean peninsula is a core national interest for the United States. Opinion polls suggest broad public support in both countries for the U.S. troop presence. There are no signs that will change, especially as the U.S.-China rivalry intensifies.

“It’s pretty clear that the U.S. has tried to move from the Middle East to focus on the so-called Indo-Pacific area,” Park said, adding that “South Korea is one of the, if not the most, important allies in this region.”

What the South Korean Nuclear Horn Could Mean For American Foreign Policy: Daniel 7

What South Korea’s Iron Dome Could Mean For American Foreign Policy

On Monday, June 28, 2021, South Korea announced the development of a missile defense system to help protect itself against the recent aggression of North Korea. The technology is to be modeled after the Iron Dome, which is used by Israel to counter Hamas. The Iron Dome is designed to shoot incoming missiles out of the air before they can strike their targets. While this system is not one hundred percent effective, it has been useful to Israel in its ongoing war against Hamas. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has yet to comment on this recent development, but he is unlikely to be deterred. While many reasons could explain why South Korea is developing this new $2.6 billion missile defense system, it may be due to the recent foreign policy actions of the United States.

The conflict on the Korean Peninsula goes back to the end of World War II. Korea had been a Japanese colony until 1945, after which it was split along the 38th parallel first into two occupied zones and eventually into sovereign states. The North, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was supported by the Soviet Union, who fostered a communist government. The South, the First Republic of Korea, was backed by the United States with an anti-communist model. In 1950, North Korea invaded the South, in an attempt to unite the peninsula under communist rule, however, the United Nations, backed in large part by the United States, intervened. Three years later, the fighting ended with the two territories still divided along lines near the original 38th parallel, with both countries locked in stalemate to this day.  

For nearly sixty years, U.S. foreign policy followed an approach of consistent military, economic, and political support of South Korea. The South largely flourished and became a powerhouse in the region. While tensions with the North remained high, South Korea could count on strong U.S. backing to help drive stability and peace in the region. 

However, Donald Trump’s election in 2016 disrupted the balance. Trump led with a strongly nationalist and an “America First” agenda. His isolationist approach and political rhetoric not only shook traditional alliances, but also confidence in America as a stabilizing global leader. With regard to the Korean peninsula, Trump’s policies were uncoordinated and inconsistent. Once, Trump issued threats of nuclear war with North Korea on Twitter. In an interview with the New York Times, Former Prime Minister Moon Jae-in said he believes Trump “failed” at bringing peace to the Korean peninsula, and that “he beat around the bush and failed to pull it through.”

Joe Biden’s election brought a shift in American foreign policy away from nationalism and with the promise of re-establishing American leadership in foreign policy. Biden’s administration quickly made clear its support of South Korea with a joint statement with the South Korean nation: “the shared values of the ROK-US Alliance undergird the two countries’ commitment to opposing all activities that undermine and destabilize the rules-based international order.”

Despite the recent U.S. foreign policy shift, South Korea’s development of the Iron Dome may be a sign that its long-standing faith in America’s alliance and support has been shaken. Given the shifting and unpredictable American foreign policy agenda, South Korea’s desire to develop this new technology could be entirely justified as self defense, since it may not be able to rely on the U.S. for constant protection anymore. The development of the Iron Dome could be a stepping stone towards better protecting South Korea against the North, but sends another message; America has become too unreliable of an ally. It has become clear that with America’s democratic process, there can be a switch between nationalism and globalism in just a few years, which could have drastic repercussions on the state of international affairs.

Photos in Kashmir before the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

Photos: Indian troops kill suspected rebels in Kashmir attack

Indian forces kill three suspected rebels in a gun battle in Indian-administered Kashmir, triggering protests and clashes.

Indian forces have killed three suspected rebels in a shoot-out in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said, triggering anti-India protests and clashes between the troops and residents.

The Indian military on Wednesday said rebels opened fire at soldiers and police as counterinsurgency troops surrounded a neighbourhood in the southern town of Pulwama on a tip that some rebels were hiding there.

Troops retaliated and trapped the rebels in a house, according to a statement by the military. Three fighters were killed in the eight-hour operation and two rifles and a pistol were recovered from the site, the statement said.

Villagers said troops set fire to one house and blasted another with explosives, a common anti-rebel tactic employed by Indian troops in the disputed Himalayan region.

Authorities issued a curfew in Pulwama town and cut off internet access on mobile phone services, a tactic aimed at making organising anti-India protests difficult and discouraging the dissemination of protest videos.

Shortly after the attack, anti-India protesters threw stones at government forces and chanted slogans seeking the end of Indian rule over the region. Government forces fired tear gas at the protesters. No one was reported injured during the clashes.

Locals said government troops detained several people and forced them to sit in front of them as shields during the clashes.

Wednesday’s fighting comes amid a surge in violence in the region, which is divided between India and Pakistan with the nuclear-armed rivals claiming it in its entirety.

Last week, authorities in the region also dismissed 11 Kashmiris from their government jobs for alleged links with rebel groups. They included two sons of a top Kashmiri rebel commander who is based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and two police officials.

Kashmiris have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Most people in the Muslim-majority region support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India says the Kashmir rebellion is “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism”. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

More killing at Kashmir before the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

Indian troops kill 3 suspected militants in Kashmir shootout

Kashmiri villagers salvage a metal box as they clear a house destroyed in a gunfight in Pulwama, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Three suspected rebels were killed in a gunfight in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday, officials said, as violence in the disputed region increased in recent weeks. Two residential houses were also destroyed. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)

The irrelevance of nuclear deterrence: Revelation 8

nuclear deterrence, Cold War, post-Cold War, second-strike, mutual destruction, denuclearisation, Logic of Nuclear Deterrence, post-Cold War society, No First Use, nuclear confrontation, South Asia, deterrence, reassurance, territorial integrity

The relevance of nuclear deterrence in a post-Cold War world

12 July 2021

Countries have understood the importance of nuclear deterrence and it plays an important role in designing their security strategies.

At the brink of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the world narrowly escaped what could have been a nuclear war between the erstwhile Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US). Since then, many countries have built up their nuclear arsenals, especially the ones that are at loggerheads with each other, the most obvious ones being Pakistan and India. However, the pertinent question is: Despite officially nine countries having nuclear weapons, why has the world been able to avoid a nuclear war? The answer to this question provided by International Relations theorists is the “logic of nuclear deterrence,” which was propagated by academics such as Thomas Schelling and BD Berkowitzduring the Cold War. However, is this logic still relevant to explain nuclear conflicts in a post-Cold War world order?

It is undisputed that the world scenario has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of bipolarity. As the struggle for power between China and the US intensifies, there is a growing concern about the nuclear weapons that China has and its potential to use those weapons against the US and its regional rival India. Then, there is North Korea that has continuously declined Washington DC’s proposal for denuclearisation and continues to build nuclear weapons. This article argues that despite these rivalries, the world has been able to avoid a nuclear war and the logic of nuclear deterrence should be given some credit for this.

Understanding the logic of nuclear deterrence

The basic principle of this logic is: One actor prevents another from taking some action by raising the latter’s fear of the consequences that will ensue. Hypothetically, if Country A launches a nuclear war against Country B, Country B will be able to inflict enough damage on Country A that it would lead to what theorists call “mutually assured destruction.” Thus, in a nuclear war, both sides will be so badly harmed that it will be impossible to declare one side or the other as the winner. Even if one of them tries to attack and disable the nuclear weapons of its rival, the other would still be left with enough nuclear weapons to inflict unacceptable destruction.

It helps avoid a nuclear war as each side tries to secure their interests by avoiding a nuclear confrontation.

Kenneth Waltz has explained the logic behind nuclear deterrence in a simple yet profound manner: “Although we are defenceless, if you attack we will punish you to an extent that more than cancels your gains.” Thus, it helps avoid a nuclear war as each side tries to secure their interests by avoiding a nuclear confrontation.

The logic of nuclear deterrence in a bipolar world

Even though the USSR had a nuclear stockpile of 40,000 nuclear weaponsand the US had a nuclear stockpile of 30,000 nuclear weapons, they did not engage in a nuclear war. An analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis illustrates that at its peak, a nuclear war between the superpowers almost seemed inevitable. However, the leaders were firm about not engaging in a nuclear war as it would cause destruction to both the superpowers. This is what prompted the US to intercept Soviet warships rather than engage directly and Moscow to passively withdraw. Deterrence led to negotiation between the superpowers as the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba, while the US promised not to invade Cuba and President Kennedy even agreed to remove American missiles from Turkey.

Problems with the logic of nuclear deterrence

Nevertheless, there are many scholars who have expressed their scepticism about the logic of deterrence by arguing that just because it avoided a nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the US, it does not mean it is a “proven fact.” Nuclear strategists have urged leaders to exercise caution when basing their security strategies on this logic. For instance, North Korea threatening to wage a nuclear war against the US has raised doubts in the minds of many advisors and academics.

Nuclear deterrence is based on the assumption that a country will avoid starting a nuclear war in order to protect its own security.

Then there is the question of the credibility of this line of thinking: Should countries base their security strategies on a logic? Many have argued that the logic of nuclear deterrence is not an established norm but a “hypothesis” and, thus, basing a nation’s security strategy on it is a gamble. Nuclear deterrence is based on the assumption that a country will avoid starting a nuclear war in order to protect its own security.

Another major flaw with this logic is the presence of many uncontrollable variables such as the misuse of nuclear weapons if the control falls into the hands of the wrong people or a soldier deliberately starting a nuclear war to create mischief.

Why the Logic of Nuclear Deterrence is not redundant in a post-Cold War society?

Given the strained relations between countries, it may seem that the world is sitting on a ticking time bomb. However, despite this, the logic of nuclear deterrence brings reassurance. First, there is the cost-benefit analysis of a nuclear war. It is a given that nuclear weapons can bring so much destruction that the costs of war will outweigh the benefits and this would “deter” leaders from engaging in nuclear warfare. There is a renewed threat of “second-strike capability” that keeps countries from engaging in nuclear warfare.

Second, leaders who are driven by personal interests are aware of the fact that no winner would emerge from a nuclear war. Given the nuclear threats by Kim Jong-un to the US, it may seem that there is a possibility of North Korean nuclear attacks. However, why has Pyongyang not acted on these threats? The main reason is that Kim Jong-un understands that waging a nuclear war would result in “mutual destruction” and this has restrained him from a nuclear attack.

Despite China, India, and Pakistan having nuclear weapons, the region has been able to avoid a nuclear confrontation.

Another good illustration of this logic at play is South Asia — a volatile region with three nuclear powers who are at loggerheads with each other. Despite China, India, and Pakistan having nuclear weapons, the region has been able to avoid a nuclear confrontation. Pakistan and India became nuclear states in 1998 and have fought one war since then. However, the Kargil War fought in 1999 did not see the use of any nuclear weapons. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Pakistan at the time, Shamshad Ahmed, told a Pakistani newspaper that Pakistan is willing to use “any weapon in our arsenal to defend our territorial integrity.” To this, George Fernandez, India’s then Defence Minister, responded that in doing so they would “liquidate” their own country in the process. This shows how nuclear deterrence plays out when indirect threats are made from either side. On analysing Sino-Indian relations, particularly the Ladakh stand-off of 2020, it is evident that both countries are careful to not use nuclear weapons even as a threat. Both these countries have stated that the role of the weapon is narrowly framed for safeguarding against nuclear blackmail and coercion. Both have declared No First Use (NFU) positions.

Thus, nuclear deterrence is not just a Cold War term but is extremely valid in a post-Cold War scenario. Countries have understood the importance of nuclear deterrence and it plays an important role in designing their security strategies. It is used by countries as a bargaining chip to deter nuclear retaliation by other countries. However, it should be noted that nuclear deterrence is not the only answer to security problems and its application can be enhanced by using other strategies such as peace talks and confidence-building measures. While it is evident that countries have understood the importance of nuclear deterrence, the world faces the threat of nuclear attack by non-state actors as deterrence as a strategy may likely fail in such cases.


The author is a research intern at ORF.The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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The South Korean Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

South Korea’s push to strengthen defences could trigger reaction from North and Japan, say Chinese observers

Seoul successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile last week as part of an ongoing drive to boost its military strength Nuclear-armed North Korea is the South’s biggest concern, but some analysts fear its efforts will have wider implications

South Korea’s push to develop its defensive capabilities saw it successfully test a submarine-launched ballistic missile last weekend, but some Chinese analysts have warned it risks a new arms race in east Asia.

Sunday’s launch from an underwater barge makes it the eighth country in the world to have mastered such a strategic capability, according to Yonhap television news, and it was one of many weapons Seoul has been developing amid a largely unnoticed arms race with North Korea.

In April, Korea Aerospace Industries unveiled the nation’s first prototype multirole fighter jet, the KF-X, which is being developed in partnership with Indonesia