US may allow South Korea to acquire nuclear bomb: Foreign Policy
Washington stands with South Korea to maintain its limited dominance in Asia, under the pretext of DPRK's nuclear ambitions being a threat to the region.
A report by Foreign Policy yesterday stated that Washington’s attempt to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions is "at a dead end." The nation is a nuclear state,
"Its arsenal is growing in both size and sophistication." The report suggests that even though Pyongyang will never be capable of staging a preemptive strike against the United States, "it soon may be able to retaliate against Washington for defending South Korea."
The United States and South Korea engaged in a debate over the shift in balance over nuclear policy, according to the report.
Is denuclearization an option?
To begin with, the report discusses pursuing denuclearization, with the North acquiring the bomb. On that note, only a few optimists, according to the report, believe that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can be talked or coerced into disarming his country's nuclear weapons.
However, the official Washington policy continues to "refuse to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, while reality may eventually force a policy shift."
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More importantly, the establishment in the South wants access to American nuclear weapons. Alternatively, as South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol suggested, Seoul could develop its own.
Many South Korean officials want "strategic assets" stationed on the peninsula, as well as "nuclear-sharing" similar to what is seen in Europe. Cynics in South Korea who doubt Washington's commitment and the sincerity of its promises want their own nuclear weapons, and some policymakers in the United States appear to be open to the idea.
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Washington nonproliferation commitment
Washington is adamantly opposed to a nuclear South Korea. One justification, according to the reports, is its dedication to nonproliferation. However, another reason would be its desire to preserve hegemony over Asia by continuing to be the only country with nuclear weapons.
The report discusses that the policy conundrum may be changing some minds. For instance, the Hoover Institution’s Michael Auslin raised the issue early: “While few believe Kim Jong Un would launch an unprovoked nuclear strike, most seasoned Korea watchers believe that he would no doubt use his arsenal once it became clear he was about to lose any war that broke out. As this risk increases, Washington will find it increasingly difficult to avoid reassessing the country’s multi-decade alliance with South Korea. The threat to American civilians will be magnified to grotesque proportions, simply because Washington continues to promise to help South Korea.”
According to Foreign Policy, ceasing to use long-range deterrence may "stop Kim from holding the American homeland hostage." There might be advantages besides North Korea, such as "Beijing's decision to militarily press its territorial claims."
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But it's clear that such a policy has disadvantages. More nuclear weapons would make accidents, leaks, and threats more likely and would make any ongoing wars worse. China might retaliate by stepping up its nuclear program.
Although it's possible that North Korea wouldn't be willing to do so, it would be less likely to negotiate any restrictions on its arsenal. However, the report contends that it is no longer possible to rule out the possibility of allowing, if not encouraging, friendly proliferation, particularly in light of the possibility that South Korea might decide to move forward without Washington's consent.
According to Foreign Policy, the US exerted concerted pressure on Taiwan's and South Korea's nuclear programs for years because it was inconceivable to allow allied states to develop nuclear weapons. This was before North Korea was likely to develop into a significant nuclear power.
The report asserted that extended deterrence in Asia posed a diminished threat, and it added that, absent US policymakers' willingness to risk everything for South Korea, the previously unthinkable—a South Korean nuclear weapon—must be taken into consideration.