Why did South Koreans lose faith in America’s nuclear umbrella? | CNN

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They have them, so we need them.

That is the fundamental argument for South Koreans who want their country to develop its own nuclear weapons. It is about the need to defend yourself against an already aggressive northern neighbor. Nuclear power in all names And leader Kim Jong Un has pledged that “Increasing exponentially” in his arsenal

The controversy that caused Seoul to stop following the long bombing was in its aftermath. Nuclear development has not only damaged a country’s relationship with the United States. only worse But it could also invite sanctions that could hamper Seoul’s access to nuclear power. And that means nothing about the region. arms race It is almost inevitable that it will provoke

But the argument that South Koreans find themselves on seems to be changing.

Ten years ago, South Korea’s call for nuclear weapons was an off-the-wall idea that was rarely talked about. Today has become the main conversation.

Recent opinion polls show that the vast majority of South Koreans support their country’s own nuclear weapons program. A number of prominent scholars who once shunned the idea switched sides. Even President Yoon Suk Yeol gave up on this idea.

So what has changed?

A missile was fired during a joint exercise between the United States.  and South Korea on May 25, 2022

for supporters The self-developed nuclear Seoul answers the age-old question: “Will Washington risk San Francisco for Seoul in case of nuclear war?”

South Korea is currently under Washington’s additional deterrence strategy. This includes a nuclear umbrella. means the United States It is obliged to assist in the event of an attack.

For some, that’s enough to be reassuring. but details that What form of “help” is still unclear. As this old question pointed out When faced with the possibility of a retaliatory nuclear strike on US soil, Washington therefore has compelling reasons to limit involvement.

Perhaps it’s better not to ask that question. We can counter North Korean attacks. So it makes no sense that the US will be involved.”

There are other reasons That made South Koreans question their confidence in the protection of the United States. that has been around for decades as well The greatest among them is Donald Trump. Former US President Mention the costs involved. without concealing a desire to withdraw 28,500 U.S. troops from South Korea and questioned why the United States have to protect the country With Trump announcing his presidential bid for the 2024 election, the issue remains on people’s minds.

“The United States is not viewed as reliable as it used to be,” said Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. and signaled all valid certifications to South Korea… Policymakers must consider the possibility that the United States Will choose management again which will be different. Guidelines for South Korea”

But the loss of faith goes beyond Trump.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul on August 17, 2022.

Not long ago, President Yun Suk Yeol abandoned the idea of ​​deploying tactical nuclear weapons to the United States. re-applied to the peninsula or South Korea has “Own nuclear capabilities” if the threat from North Korea escalates. Washington’s rejection of both ideas is clear. When Yun said this month that Seoul and Washington were discussing joint nuclear drills, President Joe Biden was asked the same day if such talks were really underway, and he replied simply, “No.”

According to Yoon, U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Brig. on the extended inhibition strategy, saying, “So far (the strategy) has worked and worked very well.”

In an interview with Chosun Ilbo newspaper published on Jan. 2, Yoon spoke of these guarantees. “It is difficult to convince our people in this way.”

But in another interview with The Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of Davos last week, Yun expressed those thoughts by saying, “I am fully confident about the US extended veto.”

The inconsistent statements hardly alleviate the concerns of arguments on both sides.

on thursday The U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggests what might seem like a middle ground. that is to build “a framework for collaborative nuclear planning” that could “help develop stronger ties of trust between partners in the current environment.”

said that this framework may “It’s similar to the NATO nuclear planning group. The planning is carried out bilaterally and trilaterally (with Japan), and control remains in the hands of the United States.”

But CSIS clearly states that it does not support it. “U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployment stationed at the peninsula or encouraging South Korea to buy its own nuclear weapons.”

Other experts include Professor Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on nuclear non-proliferation. at the Middlebury Institute in California. sees joint planning and training as “A more realistic alternative to nuclear weapons or nuclear sharing.”

For some in Yoon’s conservative party, that wasn’t enough. They see a nuclear-free South Korea threatened by a nuclear-armed North Korea. and wants nothing more than the US nuclear lead. to use again on the Korean peninsula

They seem to be disappointed. Washington removed tactical weapons from South Korea in 1991 after decades of service. And there is no sign that it will consider canceling that decision.

Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said: “U.S. nuclear deployment Back on the peninsula there was no military reason at all.”

“Now they are very rare. Very difficult to target the weapon stand. and removed weapons from them and placed them in a bunker in South Korea. which is a very enticing target for North Korea. what you do is yourself weakens your abilities.”

Many South Koreans see only one option. and some were out of patience.

Cheong, who recently switched to buying bombs in South Korea. It believes that extended deterrence strategies have reached their limits in dealing with North Korea. And only a nuclear-armed South Korea can avoid war.

“Of course, North Korea doesn’t want South Korea’s nuclear weapons. Now they can ignore the South Korean military,” Cheong said.

“But they must be nervous. (Because if South Korea decides to pursue bombs) South Korea has more than 4,000 nuclear materials to build nuclear weapons.”

Still, it’s not just the fear of damaging relations with the United States. that prevented Sol from such an approach. If South Korea leaves the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the impact on the country’s nuclear power system will likely be swift and devastating.

“First, the nuclear supplier group will cut fissile material for South Korea. which relies entirely on fissile materials from external suppliers. could lead to international sanctions,” Klingner said.

South Korean and US fighters  Participated in joint air maneuvers on November 18, 2022.

then there regional arms race It might cause provocation. China’s neighbors have made it clear they will not tolerate such formations.

“Probably China will not be happy. And it basically will not stop at preventing South Korea from nuclear deployment,” said Professor Andrei Lankov, a long-time North Korean expert at Kookmin University.

considering the potential impact Seoul may have done better to get the convenience of the warranty they offer from the US.

“The 28,500 US troops on the peninsula have a huge impact. In the event of hostilities between the two Koreas It is inevitable that the United States will not be involved We have skins in the game,” said the panda.

Finally, there are warnings that even if South Korea acquires nuclear weapons His problem hardly disappeared.

“The funny thing about nuclear weapons is that Your weapon does not negate its weapon,” said Lewis of the Middlebury Institute.

“Look at Israel. Israel has nuclear weapons and fears that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. So Israel’s nuclear weapons do not compensate for the threat they feel from Iran’s nuclear weapons.”

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