South Korea's Nuclear Options

As Pyongyang's Capabilities Advance, Seoul Needs More Than Reassurance From Washington

In January, the U.S.–South Korean alliance was rocked by President Yoon Suk-yeol's surprising suggestion: his country, a law-abiding member of the international system and a key U.S. ally, might need its own nuclear deterrent. In the United States, many foreign policy experts were aghast. A South Korean nuclear arsenal was unnecessary, they argued, because Seoul enjoys U.S. protection. Moreover, a South Korean nuclear program would violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), destabilize East Asia, and expose South Korea to crippling economic sanctions. A few days later, Yoon backpedaled, declaring that the country did not need nuclear weapons after all. The furor appeared to have subsided.

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