ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on September 2nd, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Tweet of the Day: What the ROK Can Learn from South Asia’s Nuke Experience

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  • Bruce K. Nivens
    10:53 pm on September 2nd, 2013 1

    Quoted from the article:
    ————–
    At a conference earlier this year in Washington, DC Chung leaned heavily on the U.S.-Soviet model: “The only thing that kept the Cold War cold was the mutual deterrence afforded by nuclear weapons…The lesson of the Cold War is that against nuclear weapons, only nuclear weapons can hold the peace.”

    These proliferation optimists cite the U.S.-Soviet Cold War model of nuclear deterrence to claim that a South Korean nuclear arsenal would prevent future aggression. The experience of new nuclear weapon states in South Asia, however, suggests that South Korean nuclear weapons will not prove tremendously helpful to this end.
    –end quote—

    Something this article doesn’t discuss is the fact that during the height of the Cold War, when the former Soviet Union was North Korea’s primary patron, the United States balanced out the threat of Soviet nuclear support for NK by providing its own nuclear support to South Korea. This was done with tactical nuclear weapons which remained in the custody of U.S. forces, and which — in the event of a conflict which required them — would be delivered by U.S. forces. Delivery units like WSD-K (in which I served for two years) existed for this purpose.

    It was only when South Korea normalized relations with the Soviet Union and Soviet patronage of NK came to an end that the U.S. finally withdrew tactical nukes from the peninsula and inactivated the delivery units. The nuclear threat to the ROK had lessened significantly, and in turn we were able to stand down the immediate nuclear deterrent, replacing it with the pledge of a “nuclear umbrella” which could be now be provided by U.S. military assets not permanently stationed on the peninsula. Once the peninsula was finally declared to be nuke-free, the two Koreas eventually signed a non-proliferation agreement. (North Korea eventually broke that agreement, but South Korea has stuck with it.)

    But it can be argued that during the time of nuclear threat from the north, it was a counterbalancing threat from the south — with both threats backed by proxy — that helped keep the peace in those days.

    With the advent of NK developing and possessing its own nuclear weapons, it is perfectly understandable that there are people in the ROK who are pushing for an indigenous nuclear weapons program. The U.S. over the years has made many assurances that its commitment of a nuclear umbrella of protection still applies. It is a testament of the trust between the ROK and the United States when pressures from within the country to nuclearize are being resisted. This is why it is important for the U.S. to maintain its military presence in South Korea and to keep its pledge to employ U.S. nuclear weapons at the behest of the ROK government in the event of a conflict which requires them. The deterrent effect from nuclear weapons comes from the willingness to use them. As long as the U.S. is willing to do that, then the nuclear counterbalance being sought by hawkish folks in South Korea already exists, just as it always has. There is no need for the ROK to possess its own nuclear weapons.

  • Jake
    11:28 pm on September 2nd, 2013 2

    “The U.S. over the years has made many assurances that its commitment of a nuclear umbrella of protection still applies. It is a testament of the trust between the ROK and the United States when pressures from within the country to nuclearize are being resisted – ”

    Not quite. This suggests that The US does NOT trust Korea in having their own nuclear weapon. Well, the US didn’t prevent Israel from having one.

 

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