Introducing nuclear weapons not ideal against N Korea’s nukes

15-May-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Military buildup such as introducing US tactical nuclear weapons or a NATO-style “nuclear sharing” system is not the right answer for South Korea to deal with growing nuclear threats from North Korea, according to diplomatic experts, Friday.

Instead, they advised Seoul to deal with the threat by enhancing its alliance with the United States and communicating constantly with neighbouring countries, during a webinar titled “Assessing Northeast Asia Nuclear Domino: North Korean Nuclear Threat and South Korean Responses.”

The webinar was co-hosted by Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (APLN), the Sejong Institute, the Research Institute of National Security Affairs of the Korea National Defense University (KNDU), the Korea Nuclear Policy Society (KNPS), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Pugwash Japan, with support from the Open Society Foundations.

About 170 people participated in the webinar, including KNDU President Kim Jong-cheol, Sejong Institute President Paik Hak-soon and KNPS President Lee Sang-hyun, who delivered opening remarks, and Sejong Institute Chair and APLN vice-Chair Moon Chung-in as the keynote speaker and KNDU professor Kim Young-jun as the moderator.

In his keynote speech, Moon noted that there are growing discussions in South Korea and Japan, both allies of the US, over how to deal with growing nuclear threats from North Korea and whether they should introduce tactical nuclear weapons or NATO-style nuclear sharing.

“There is a very interesting parallel between South Korea and Japan and even the ideas were very similar. North Korea’s nuclear capabilities will be increasing and there is a kind of very serious threat perception on the part of Japan and South Korea,” Moon said.

But he said “that created a kind of danger,” adding that it has brought growing concerns over a possible nuclear domino effect on the Northeast Asian region.

Following Moon’s keynote speech, three presenters shared their assessments on North Korea’s nuclear missile threat, the matter of introducing nuclear weapons to South Korea and the general public’s perception of the idea of developing South Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Kim Jung-sup, a senior research fellow of the Sejong Institute and former deputy defense minister, made a presentation on his assessment of North Korea’s weapons revealed after the failure of the February 2019 Hanoi summit between then-US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

“Concerns are growing over a possible pre-emptive nuclear strike by North Korea since North Korea made its development of tactical nuclear official to the international community,” Kim said, citing a report by RAND Corporation, a California-based non-profit global policy think tank.

The RAND Report, published April 2021, wrote, “The North Korean threat of a nuclear attack on US homeland cities might be sufficient leverage for North Korea to break the US nuclear umbrella and perhaps even the Republic of Korea-US alliance, allowing North Korean dominance of the Republic of Korea.”

Kim said the security dilemma of South Korea grows in accordance with North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. But he said South Korea should not pursue the concept of a perfect defense but instead assure the alliance with the US, while seeking to make an agreement with the US on the operation of US nuclear capabilities in time of crisis.

Cheong Wook-sik, president of Korea Peace Network, recommended a closer look at the purpose of North Korea’s nuclear development.

“Many people say North Korea has developed nuclear weapons for its survival, but we should also note that if it uses such weapons then its original purpose cannot be achieved,” Cheong said. Cheong said what the North thinks of the concept of denuclearisation is different from that defined by the United States, so it is unlikely for the countries to reach an agreement on the matter in the near future.

He said the South Korean government should propose that the international community make the Korean Peninsula a nuclear-free zone based on UN guidelines.

The third and last presenter of the webinar was Kim Ji-yoon, a senior researcher of the Institute of Democracy Studies and Education.

Kim, an experienced public opinion researcher, said over half of the South Korean people support the idea of having South Korea’s own nuclear programme or introducing a nuclear programme to the country. She said polls conducted right after North Korea’s provocations have shown higher rates of respondents supporting the idea of having nuclear sovereignty.

After the presentations by the three presenters, a debate session was followed, with scholars from abroad participating as the discussion panel. They included Peter Hayes, director of Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and research director at APLN; KNPS President Lee Sang-hyun; Toby Dalton, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Jon Wolfsthal, former special assistant to former US President Barack Obama for nonproliferation; Lee Sang-chul, former deputy national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in; and Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice director and professor at the Research centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA).


Category: Korea

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