The Asian Nuclear Horns: Daniel 7

Asia’s Nuclear Future
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a ballistic missile in North Pyongan Province, North Korea, on March 19, 2023. North Korea says its ballistic missile launch simulated a nuclear attack against South Korea. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.Credit: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Asia’s Nuclear Future

Even in today’s unsettled environment, the prospects for additional states to develop nuclear weapons are low. But if there is a next nuclear power, it’ll be found in Asia.

By Cheryl Rofer

April 01, 2023

It may not happen for some time, or at all, but the next nation that joins the nuclear club will be in Asia.

South America and the Caribbean are nuclear-free under the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Likewise, African countries have foresworn nuclear weapons under the Treaty of Pelindaba. The Treaty of Rarotonga covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands, and the Antarctic is covered by a treaty too. Europe is united by Russia’s imperial war against Ukraine and sits under the protection of NATO’s nuclear umbrella. 

More broadly, most nations around the world have promised, under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Most of those outside the NPT are in Asia. Three of the Asian states outside the NPT are already nuclear powers: India and Pakistan, and North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003.

Several states in Asia have motives to proliferate, inspired by complex regional conflict dynamics and domestic ambitions alike. North Korea tests missiles. China builds up its nuclear arsenal and patrols the South China Sea aggressively. India, Pakistan, and China contest borders. Iran ratchets up its uranium enrichment. The mix of nuclear and non-nuclear nations and the complexity of the conflicts in Asia can make nuclear weapons look attractive. 

On the other hand, Asia has nuclear weapon free zones too. The Treaty of Bangkok covers Southeast Asia, and Central Asia has its own treaty against nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons were developed with 1940s computational and engineering capabilities. Any industrial nation is capable of building them, but an industrial-scale operation is necessary. A nuclear weapons program is expensive and requires significant development and redirection of resources. Not only must the weapons themselves be developed, but delivery systems need to be created too.

A state that wants to develop nuclear weapons would have to withdraw from the NPT, a move that would trigger considerable consequences. Alliances with other states would weaken or be broken, with, for example, sanctions or travel bans imposed. Tensions with adversary states would increase. And ultimately, nuclear weapons cannot prevent conventional conflict, as seen in the Sino-Soviet border war of 1969 and the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan.  

The world’s largest nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, and China – have an outsized influence on proliferation potential in Asia. Their activities may lead other nations to consider developing their own nuclear weapons. 

Cheryl Rofer

Cheryl Rofer is an independent scholar. She worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1965 to 2001 on a variety of projects having both scientific and policy aspects. She managed environmental cleanups and a program to develop a disposal method for hazardous waste, and worked with Estonia and Kazakhstan to clean up environmental problems left by the Soviet Union. Her publications include technical papers on chemistry, a book, magazine articles on nuclear policy and history.

North Korea Postures Against the South Korean Nuclear Horn

According to KCNA, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 'guided the work for mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles' at the institute.

North Korea unveils new nuclear warheads as U.S. air carrier arrives in South Korea

Experts say the images could indicate progress in miniaturizing warheads that are powerful, yet small enough, to mount on intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects missiles in Pyongyang on Monday.KCNA / AFP – Getty Images

March 28, 2023, 4:39 AM MDT / Source: Reuters

By Reuters

North Korea unveiled new, smaller nuclear warheads and vowed to produce more weapons-grade nuclear material to expand the country’s arsenal, state news agency KCNA said Tuesday, as a U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea for military drills.

KCNA released photos of the warheads, dubbed Hwasan-31s, as leader Kim Jong Un visited the Nuclear Weapons Institute, where he inspected new tactical nuclear weapons and technology for mounting warheads on ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear counterattack operation plans.

Experts say the images could indicate progress in miniaturizing warheads that are powerful yet small enough to mount on intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S.

“It has something more powerful in a smaller space. That’s worrisome,” said Kune Y. Suh, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, comparing the new warheads to the 2016 version.

Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korean naval officer who teaches at Kyungnam University, said the warheads were most likely designed for use with at least eight different delivery platforms listed in posters on the wall, including missiles and submarines.

“Those are not limited to tactical missiles but appear to be a miniaturized, lightweight and standardized warhead that can mount on various vehicles,” he said.

“Now that the delivery vehicles are nearly ready, they would churn out warheads to secure second strike capabilities — perhaps hundreds, not dozens — while running centrifuges even harder to get weapons-grade nuclear material,” he added

Kim Jong Un ordered the production of weapons-grade materials in a “far-sighted way” to boost its nuclear arsenal “exponentially” and produce powerful weapons, KCNA said.

He said the enemy of the country’s nuclear forces is not a specific state or group but “war and nuclear disaster themselves,” and the policy of expanding the arsenal is solely aimed at defending the country, and regional peace and stability.

Kim Jong Un inspects nuclear weapons at a facility in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
According to North Korean media, Kim Jong Un ‘guided the work for mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles’ at the institute in Pyongyang on March 27, 2023. KCNA / AFP – Getty Images

Kim was also briefed on an IT-based integrated nuclear weapon management system called Haekbangashoe, which means “nuclear trigger,” whose accuracy, reliability and security were verified during recent drills simulating a nuclear counterattack, KCNA said.

North Korea has been ramping up tensions, firing short-range ballistic missiles on Monday and conducting a nuclear counterattack simulation last week against the U.S. and South Korea, which it accused of rehearsing an invasion with their military exercises.

North Korea’s military simulated a nuclear airburst with two tactical ballistic missiles equipped with mock warheads during Monday’s training, while testing a nuclear-capable underwater attack drone again on March 25-27, KCNA said in separate dispatches.

The underwater drone, called Haeil-1, reached a target in the waters off the northeast coast after cruising along a “jagged and oval” 373-mile course for more than 41 hours, it said.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea does not deserve “a single penny” of economic aid while pushing for nuclear development, his spokesman said.

A South Korean military spokesman said that additional tests and analysis would be needed to verify whether the North’s new warheads are deployable, but that its report on the underwater drone was most likely “exaggerated and fabricated.”

Also on Tuesday, a U.S. carrier strike group led by the USS Nimitz docked at the Busan naval base in South Korea after conducting joint maritime drills. It was the carrier’s first visit in nearly six years and coincides with the 70th anniversary of the two countries’ alliance.

Rear Admiral Kim Ji-hoon of the South Korean navy said joint exercises were intended to improve U.S. extended deterrence — the military capability, especially nuclear forces, to deter attacks on its allies — given the North’s evolving threats.

The strike group commander, Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, said his ships were prepared for any contingency.

“We don’t seek conflicts with the DPRK. We seek peace and security. We’re not going to be coerced, we’re not going to be bullied and we’re not going anywhere,” he told reporters.

DPRK is an abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang has accused the allies of stoking tensions and using exercises to rehearse an invasion.

A commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s ruling party media outlet, said the drills, especially those involving the aircraft carrier, amount to “an open declaration of war” and preparations for a “preemptive attack” against North Korea.

“The frantic war drills in the puppet region are not just military drills but nuclear war drills for a preemptive strike … pursuant to the U.S. political and military option to escalate confrontation with the DPRK and finally lead to a war,” it said.

An Anxious Asia Prepares For Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Japanese pilots refuel an F-15 fighter jet at the Tinian airport on Feb. 17. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Japanese pilots refuel an F-15 fighter jet at the Tinian airport on Feb. 17. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

An anxious Asia arms for a war it hopes to prevent

  • Mar 26, 2023

TINIAN, NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS – The tiny island of Tinian was the launch point for U.S. planes carrying atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Now a new runway is being carved from the jungle, just south of World War II ruins.

And on a blustery February morning, a few hundred meters away at Tinian’s civilian airport, American airmen refueled Japanese fighter jets during a military exercise using more airstrips, islands and Japanese planes than the two enemies-turned-allies have ever mustered for drills in the North Pacific.

Asia and the Pacific are steering into an anxious, well-armed moment with echoes of old conflicts and immediate risks. Rattled by China’s military buildup and territorial threats — along with Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and doubts about U.S. resolve — nations across the region are bolstering defense budgets, joint training, weapons manufacturing and combat-ready infrastructure.

For decades, Asia’s rise made it an economic engine for the world, tying China and other regional manufacturing hubs to Europe and America. The focus was trade. Now fear is setting in, with China and the United States locked in a volatile strategic contest and with diplomatic relations at their worst point in 50 years.

This past week’s meeting in Moscow between China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia pointed to the powerful forces lining up against the West.

Xi has made his intentions clear. He aims to achieve a “national rejuvenation” that would include displacing the United States as the dominant rule-setter in the region, controlling access to the South China Sea, and bringing Taiwan — a self-governing island that China sees as lost territory — under Beijing’s control.

In response, many of China’s neighbors — and the United States — are turning to hard power, accelerating the most significant arms race in Asia since World War II.

U.S., Australian and Japanese military teams collaborate during a joint drill at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam on Feb. 17. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
U.S., Australian and Japanese military teams collaborate during a joint drill at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam on Feb. 17. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

On March 13, North Korea launched cruise missiles from a submarine for the first time. The same day, Australia unveiled a $200 billion plan to build nuclear-propelled submarines with America and Britain.

Japan, after decades of pacifism, is also gaining offensive capabilities unmatched since the 1940s with U.S. Tomahawk missiles. India has conducted training with Japan and Vietnam. Malaysia is buying South Korean combat aircraft. U.S. officials are trying to amass a giant weapons stockpile in Taiwan to head off a Chinese invasion, and the Philippines is planning for expanded runways and ports to host its largest U.S. military presence in decades.

None of this may be enough to match China. Its own surging arsenal now includes “monster” coast guard cutters along with a rapidly increasing supply of missiles and nuclear warheads.

In flash point after flash point over the past year, China’s military has also engaged in provocative or dangerous behavior: deploying a record number of military aircraft to threaten Taiwan and firing missiles into the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone for the first time; sending soldiers with spiked batons to dislodge an Indian army outpost, escalating battles over the border between the two countries; and temporarily blinding the crew of a Filipino patrol boat with a laser and flying dangerously close to a U.S. plane, part of its aggressive push to claim authority in the South China Sea.

Many countries hope that stronger militaries will discourage China from going any further, but the buildup also reflects declining confidence in the United States. The war in Ukraine has drawn down U.S. political capital and material support.

Asia’s security calculations ultimately point to an unsettled and ill-tempered global order, shaped by one-man rule in a more militarized China with slowing economic growth, polarized politics in a heavily indebted America, bolder aggression from Russia and North Korea, and demands for greater influence from the still-developing giants of Indonesia and India.

In 2000, military spending in Asia and the Pacific accounted for 17.5% of worldwide defense expenditures, according to SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2021, it accounted for 27.7% (with North Korea excluded, making it an undercount), and since then, spending has shot up further.

China’s growth has been a major driver of that increase. It now spends about $300 billion a year on its military, according to SIPRI, up from $22 billion in 2000, adjusted for inflation — an expenditure second only to the $800 billion defense budget of the United States. And while U.S. military spending covers a global network, China has focused on Asia, rolling out hardware to project power and intimidate its neighbors.

China’s navy has already outstripped the U.S. Navy, reaching 360 battle force ships in 2020, compared with the U.S. total of 297, according to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. In 2021, China fired off 135 ballistic missiles for testing, more than the rest of the world combined outside war zones, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Beijing’s nuclear arsenal is smaller than those of the United States and Russia, but here, too, the gap is starting to narrow. By 2030, the Defense Department has estimated, China’s supply of more than 400 nuclear warheads is likely to expand to 1,000. It already has more land-based launchers than the United States, leading some to call for the Pentagon not just to modernize its own technology but also to add to its nuclear stockpile of 3,708 available warheads.

American and Japanese airmen train on runway repair with rapid-setting concrete on the Pacific isle of Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, on Feb. 17. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
American and Japanese airmen train on runway repair with rapid-setting concrete on the Pacific isle of Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, on Feb. 17. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Beyond raw capacity, Xi’s willingness to brandish the People’s Liberation Army on disputed borderlands has magnified anxieties, as has China’s new naval base in Cambodia and recent security agreement with the Solomon Islands.

Many countries have concluded that to restrain the Chinese Communist Party and gain leverage with the United States or other nations, they must show they can and will counterattack if needed.

In 2006, Japan and India started sharing security assessments over concerns about China’s efforts to expand airstrips and ports across South and East Asia, an effort that would later include building military bases on islands and reefs that other nations claim as their own.

India and Japan have since signed several agreements that typify the region’s interlocking defense plans. One deal granted access to each other’s bases for supplies and services; another eased regulations to encourage cooperation in military manufacturing. So far this year, the two countries have conducted naval training together and their first-ever joint fighter exercise.

The Guam Remote Ground Terminal at Andersen Air Force Base on Feb. 17. The site does satellite surveillance in the region. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Guam Remote Ground Terminal at Andersen Air Force Base on Feb. 17. The site does satellite surveillance in the region. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Now that many kinds of missiles from China and North Korea can hit U.S. bases in nearby Japan and in Guam, every U.S. service branch has begun aiming for a dispersed approach in the Indo-Pacific — “the priority theater” for global security, according to the Defense Department, which has stationed 300,000 troops in the region.

To minimize risk and maximize deterrence, U.S. officials have been hunting for real estate. The Philippines, Japan, Australia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and U.S. territories across the Pacific are all working with Defense Department officials on expanding military access and facilities, often with the U.S. proposing investments in shared infrastructure.

U.S. officials acknowledge that tensions across the region are rising alongside military budgets. But they say they believe the glue of shared distress about China will hold.

Is South Korea Ready to Go Nuclear? Daniel 7

South Korea's new President Yoon Suk Yeol waves from a car after the Presidential Inauguration outside the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea.

South Korean president: ‘I will make sure North Korea pays the price for its reckless provocations’

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un threatened earlier this week to ‘plunge’ the US and South Korea ‘into despair’

By Timothy H.J. Nerozzi | Fox New

‘The North Korean Freedom Foundation’ chair Suzanne Scholte joins ‘Fox News Live’ to discuss the protests in front of North Korea’s mission to the United Nations.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol promised on Friday to punish North Korea for the communist nation’s recent series of “provocations.” 

“North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapons day by day and conducting missile provocations with unprecedented intensity,” said Yoon. 

He made the comments at the Daejeon national cemetery to commemorate the anniversary of West Sea Defense Day — a holiday in honor of servicemen who lost their lives defending the maritime border with North Korea.

South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk Yeol waves from a car after the Presidential Inauguration outside the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

He continued, “The South Korean government and military will drastically strengthen our three-axis system in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile advancements and provocations, and will further solidify security cooperation with the United States and also trilaterally with the United States and Japan.”

Yoon’s comments came just hours after North Korea claimed to have successfully simulated cruise missile attacks and an underwater nuclear drone launch

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the 7th enlarged plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the 7th enlarged plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).  (KCNA via REUTERS)

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un threatened to plunge South Korea and the US “into despair” in response to ongoing joint military drills between the two nations.

“I will make sure North Korea pays the price for its reckless provocations,” Yoon threatened.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with his daughter, inspects what it says is an artillery drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with his daughter, inspects what it says is an artillery drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea ((Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP))

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned earlier this week that any attempt to force the country into denuclearizing would be equivalent to a declaration of war.

“Any force should keep in mind that if it tries to apply CVID to the DPRK, it will be dealt with resolutely in accordance with the DPRK’s law on nuclear force policy,” Jo said Thursday.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during an interview at the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during an interview at the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

“The pressure on the DPRK to dismantle its nukes precisely means a declaration of war,” he said.

Timothy Nerozzi is a writer for Fox News Digital. You can follow him on Twitter @timothynerozzi and can email him at

Seoul mayor advocates S Korean Nukes: Daniel 7

Seoul mayor advocates homegrown nuclear arsenal with Reuters

 Mar 13, 2023

File photo. The Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government Oh Se-hoon speaks about ‘Seoul, A Globally attractive city that goes together with the Socially Neglected’ during a press conference at Seoul city hall in Seoul, South Korea, 7 February 2023. [EPA-EFE/JEON HEON-KYUN]

South Korea should build nuclear weapons to bolster its defences against North Korea, even at the risk of international repercussions, the mayor of its capital city said, arguing that the country cannot be bound by the goal of denuclearisation.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters on Monday (13 March), Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon added new fuel to a growing debate over how South Korea should arm itself as the North races to perfect its capability to strike the South with tactical nuclear weapons.

“North Korea has nearly succeeded in miniaturising and lightening tactical nuclear weapons and secured at least dozens of warheads,” Oh said. “We’ve come to a point where it is difficult to convince people with the logic that we should refrain from developing nuclear weapons and stick to the cause of denuclearisation.”

He has raised the issue before, saying in February that the South should keep the nuclear option available. But his new comments are his strongest yet.

Oh, an influential member of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative People Power Party, is one of the highest-profile officials to actively advocate for a South Korean nuclear weapons programme.

He is seen as a likely contender for the presidency in 2027. As mayor, he oversees Seoul’s annual civil defence drills and an integrated security mechanism aimed at protecting a metropolitan area that is home to nearly half of the country’s 51 million people.

Amid advances in North Koreas’ military and doubts over the US commitment or ability to protect the South, a growing number of senior South Korean officials have raised the possibility of developing nuclear weapons or redeploying American tactical nuclear bombs and missiles, which were withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula in the 1990s.

As a candidate, Yoon proposed the US redeployment option, but his administration has since said it remains committed to denuclearisation and would reinforce combined conventional defences with the US.

Surveys, however, show unprecedented levels of public support in South Korea for the once unthinkable idea of a homegrown nuclear arsenal.

In a poll released on 1 March by Data Research, more than 70% of South Koreans supported developing nuclear weapons with 27% opposed; 59% said North Korea would probably use nuclear weapons if war breaks out on the peninsula.

Oh said the Ukraine crisis has cemented his conviction that denuclearisation has lost its appeal, and that nuclear weapons would be the most effective deterrent against the North.

“Russia freely violates Ukraine’s airspace, flying bombers and firing missiles … but Ukraine barely attacks Russian territory because of the psychological inferiority to a nuclear state,” Oh said.

He dismissed opponents who warned of punishments from other countries, including sanctions, saying a South Korean nuclear programme would send a message to countries like China to curb the North’s military buildup.

“There may be some initial resistance from the international community, but I believe that it will gain more support eventually,” he said.

A former senior US official said the increase in rhetoric from the Yoon government seems driven by a desire to pressure the United States into giving South Korea more say in nuclear planning.

Yoon has said US extended deterrence is “falling short of convincing” South Koreans, and Washington has agreed to establish more information-sharing and conduct tabletop drills to enable greater allied cooperation.

In a report this month, Lee Sang-hyun, president of South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said that Yoon is not seriously considering a nuclear programme and that a return of American weapons was also unlikely.

“However, the Yoon government’s nuclear non-proliferation stance has shown small but significant signs of change in recent months,” he wrote. “If North Korea’s nuclear threat becomes more visible and South Korea takes its own path to nuclear development, it will signal the start of a nuclear domino effect in Asia.”

North Korea launches missiles from submarine

Nuclear-armed North Korea test-fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine on Sunday, state news agency KCNA said on Monday, just as US-South Korea military drills were due to begin.

“Strategic” is typically used to describe weapons that have a nuclear capability and a longer range.

KCNA said the launch confirmed the reliability of the system and tested the underwater offensive operations of the submarine units that form part of North Korea’s nuclear deterrent.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the military was on high alert and the country’s intelligence agency was working with its US counterpart to analyse the specifics of the launch.

On Monday, South Korean and American troops were scheduled to begin 11 days of joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23,” which will be held on a scale not seen since 2017.

The drills will strengthen the allies’ combined defensive posture, the two militaries have said, and will feature field exercises including amphibious landings.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

The South Korean Horn is Ready to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

A supermajority of South Koreans want nukes: polls

Seoul has long promised it wouldn’t pursue nuclear weapons, but public opinion threatens to change that.

MARCH 6, 2023

Written by
Connor Echols

Two-thirds of South Koreans want their country to develop its own nuclear weapons, according to a recent survey from South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo.

The chastening finding comes amid years of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula that threatened to boil over into a crisis last year. North Korea carried out a record number of ballistic missile tests in 2022, a practice that South Korea and the United States responded to with unprecedented military drills of their own. 

Now, Pyongyang is reportedly considering carrying out its first nuclear test since 2017, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol recently suggested that Seoul could pursue nukes of its own.

“It’s possible that the problem gets worse and our country will introduce tactical nuclear weapons or build them on our own,” Yoon said. “If that’s the case, we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”

While Yoon’s comments may seem odd to an American audience, they reflect a growing trend in South Korean politics. Over the past decade, public support for acquiring nuclear weapons has hovered between 60 and 70 percent, hitting a high of 71 percent in a 2022 survey from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

And the country’s political leaders are starting to catch up with public opinion. As Nathan Park recently noted in RS, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon — a leading member of Yoon’s conservative party and a possible future presidential candidate — said South Korea needs “an ‘active nuclear umbrella’ or its own nuclear weapons,” and Daegu mayor Hong Joon-pyo said that denuclearization of the peninsula has become “impossible.”

For now, all this talk has yet to turn into a shift in policy. In an interview with CNN, Han Duck-soo, South Korea’s prime minister, acknowledged the broad public support for nuclear proliferation but said such a move is not “the right way” to deal with North Korea.

“We have built up a quite adequate level of our deterrence capabilities in close cooperation with the United States,” Han said. “We would like to let North Korea know that developing and advancing nuclear capabilities will not guarantee the peace and prosperity in their country.”

Notably, South Korean public opinion on nuclear weapons has largely followed the tone of U.S. policy in the region. When former President Donald Trump attempted a diplomatic opening with Pyongyang in 2018, only 55 percent of South Koreans reported wanting Seoul to pursue its own nuclear arms program — the lowest result since at least 2010.

But tensions with China — a nuclear-armed neighbor and ally of North Korea — have also played a key role. South Koreans who support a domestic nuclear weapons program largely said it was necessary to deal with threats other than Pyongyang or to boost Seoul’s standing in the international community, according to a 2022 poll from the Chicago Council.

The South Korean Horn Holds Off On Nukes For Now: Daniel 7

CNN Exclusive: South Korea doesn’t need nuclear weapons to face the North, prime minister says

CNN’s Richard Quest interviews South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo

By Jessie Yeung and Richard Quest, CNN

South Korea doesn’t need nuclear arms to deter the threat from North Korea, the country’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said in an exclusive interview with CNN — even as public opinion swings the other way amid Asia’s accelerating arms race.

Several recent public surveys “definitely showed that we should re-arm ourselves. In nuclear capability terms, (the surveys say) we should go farther,” Han told CNN anchor and business editor-at-large Richard Quest during a sit-down in Seoul.

One such poll, released last February, found that 71% of more than 1,300 respondents in the country were in favor of South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons — a once-unthinkable idea that has become increasingly mainstream in the past decade, with rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula and dwindling confidence in South Korea toward US protection.

However, Han insisted the country has enough in its arsenal to stave off North Korea’s “preposterous ambitions” — and that developing nuclear capabilities was not “the right way.”

“We have built up a quite adequate level of our deterrence capabilities in close cooperation with the United States,” he said, adding that the government had “put a lot of emphasis” on strengthening its deterrence since President Yoon Suk Yeol took power last year.

“We should work together with the international community… to put a lot of continuous pressure on North Korea to denuclearize,” he said. “We would like to let North Korea know that developing and advancing nuclear capabilities will not guarantee the peace and prosperity in their country.”

Relations between North and South Korea have worsened in recent years as Pyongyang ramped up its weapons program, firing a record number of missiles last year — including one that flew over Japan, the first time North Korea had done so in five years, prompting international alarm.

And for months, the US and international observers have warned that North Korea appears to be preparing for its first underground nuclear test since 2017. The country’s dictator Kim Jong Un also intensified his rhetoric last year; he declared his intention to build the “world’s most powerful” nuclear force, warned adversaries that North Korea was fully prepared for “actual war,” vowed to “never give up” nuclear weapons and dismissed the possibility of negotiating denuclearization.

In response, the US and its allies South Korea and Japan have stepped up their own military drills and cooperation. Yoon, who has publicly taken a tough stance against North Korea, even raised the prospect of South Korea building its own nuclear arsenal, saying in January it could “deploy tactical nuclear weapons or possess its own nukes.”

And despite Han voicing opposition to such a plan, he too emphasized South Korea’s preparedness in confronting its nuclear-armed neighbor — as well as its openness for further talks, under certain conditions.

“We are not disarming ourselves against North Korea,” he said. “But we are not closing the dialogue channel with North Korea … as long as North Korea is abstaining from their very strong nuclear ambitions.”

China’s role

Han also discussed China’s role in the region, saying the superpower was “not the country it used to be,” in past decades that ushered in economic reforms and liberalization.

“China is a huge and important global player,” he said. “Including Korea, I think many countries would like to see (China) be more compliant with global rules.”

He added that though China “will contribute a lot in solving global problems,” the country often doesn’t meet the “expectations a lot of countries would like to have — for example, we hoped that China would be more aggressive and more active in reducing tensions in the Korean Peninsula.”

For years, China has been North Korea’s biggest trading partner and an economic lifeline, with Pyongyang isolated from much of the world.

But Beijing, too, is a major player in the Asia arms race.

In January, US and Japanese ministers warned of the “ongoing and accelerating expansion of (China’s) nuclear arsenal.” Just days later, Japan’s prime minister expressed concern over China’s military activities in the East China Sea, and the launch of ballistic missiles over Taiwan that landed in waters near Japan in August.

China’s military buildup, aggressive foreign policy and multiple disputed territorial claims haven’t gone unnoticed in Seoul — where attitudes toward Beijing are fast souring.

In the 2022 survey on South Korean nuclear armament, more than half of respondents said China would be the biggest threat to the country in 10 years, and many cited “threats other than North Korea” behind their support for a domestic nuclear arsenal.

Han acknowledged that Seoul was closely watching these territorial disputes.

“Peace in the Taiwan Strait is also very important for the security and peace of the Korean Peninsula,” he said. And though South Korea is “committed” to the one-China policy, he said, “at the same time, we (expect) China to be more rule-based, not behaving as a country … being condemned by international community.”

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The Debate on the South Korean Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

What’s Driving South Korea’s Debate on Acquiring Nuclear Weapons
Credit: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

What’s Driving South Korea’s Debate on Acquiring Nuclear Weapons

Why is interest in nuclear weapons acquisition growing in South Korea?

The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast hosts Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) and Katie Putz (@LadyPutz) discuss the ongoing debates in South Korea on nuclear weapons acquisition.

Staff Author

Ankit Panda

Ankit Panda is editor-at-large at The Diplomat and the Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow him on Twitter.

Staff Author

Catherine Putz

Catherine Putz is managing editor of The Diplomat. She tweets @LadyPutz.

South Korean Horn Prepares for Nuclear War: Daniel 7

US, South Korea Plan for Potential Nuclear Strike by North Korea

US, South Korea Plan for Potential Nuclear Strike by North Korea

Jon Herskovitz

Thu, February 23, 2023 at 7:50 PM MST·3 min read

(Bloomberg) — The US and South Korea held discussions over ways they would respond to possible nuclear attacks by North Korea, which has been steadily building up its capability to deliver a credible atomic strike against the two.

The so-called table-top exercise held in Washington focused on hypothetical scenarios of North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons, the Pentagon said in a statement late Thursday. They were the first of their sort since South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol took office about a year ago and bolstered joint military exercises with the US, a move that angered Pyongyang and led it to step up its provocations.

“Both sides discussed various options to demonstrate the Alliance’s strong response capabilities and resolve to respond appropriately to any DPRK nuclear use,” the Defense Department said, referring to North Korea by its formal name.

The US reiterated that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the US or its allies would “result in the end” of Kim’s regime. The South Korean delegation also visited a US nuclear submarine facility in Georgia to see military assets the US could use against North Korea, which are aimed at deterring Pyongyang from launching a strike.

North Korea has ratcheted up tensions in the past week by test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, and firing two short-range missiles a few days later. Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of the leader, threatened to turn the Pacific into a “firing range,” in a hint the state could start testing whether its warhead designs can withstand the heat of reentering the atmosphere.

North Korea’s official media said Friday the state tested four, long-range cruise missiles a day earlier that flew in figure-8 patterns for a distance of about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) — a range that could hit almost all of Japan.

Cruise missiles are designed to fly low to the ground and avoid radar. They move far slower than ballistic missiles and there are no United Nations resolutions that ban Pyongyang from testing them.

“The drill clearly demonstrated once again the war posture of the DPRK nuclear combat force bolstering up in every way its deadly nuclear counterattack capability against the hostile forces,” its Korean Central News Agency said.

The launch of the cruise missiles came shortly after the US, Japan and South Korea held a joint naval missile defense exercise in international waters.

North Korea for decades has called the joint exercises a prelude to an invasion and nuclear war and state media Friday carried a fresh threat from one of its top diplomats, who urged the US halt the exercises.

“If the US continues its hostile and provocative practices against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea despite our repeated protests and warnings, it could be regarded as a declaration of war against the DPRK,” it quoted Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of US Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, as saying.

Last year, Kim’s regime test fired more than 70 ballistic missiles, the most in his decade in power and in defiance of UN resolutions that prohibit such launches. The North Korean leader has been modernizing his inventory of missiles over the past several years to make them easier to hide, quicker to deploy and more difficult to shoot down.

He also is poised to conduct his first test of a nuclear bomb since 2017. The US, Japan and South Korea has pledged a stern coordinated response if North Korea goes ahead the with blast.

–With assistance from Shinhye Kang.

(Updates with comment from North Korean diplomat.)

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South Korean Horn is Ready to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

What makes South Koreans so eager for nuclear deterrent?

70% of public favor going nuclear to counter threats from Pyongyang, Beijing

A missile is fired during joint U.S.-South Korea military drills at an undisclosed location in South Korea in May 2022. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

HIROSHI MINEGISHI, Nikkei senior staff writerFebruary 19, 2023 10:09 JST

TOKYO — A large majority of South Koreans support the idea of arming the country with nuclear weapons in the face of growing threats from North Korea.

Recent polls show that more than 70% of those surveyed support the deployment of nuclear arms in the country. “We must make overwhelmingly superior war preparations [to ensure peace],” said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in December last year, echoing the public sentiment on the issue.

At a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Jan. 31 in Seoul, Yoon said he wants to see “an effective and powerful system of extended deterrence” to help dispel public concerns, basically telling the Pentagon chief that the current level of U.S. nuclear deterrence is not sufficient to counter the rising threat from North Korea. Austin replied that the U.S. will “make efforts” to gain the trust of South Koreans.

On Jan. 30, the day before the Yoon-Austin meeting, Gallup Korea released the results of a recent poll that showed 76% of respondents said the country needs to develop its own nuclear weapons, three times as many as opposed the idea. A separate survey by a private think tank, conducted in May 2022, also found 70% in support of South Korea possessing nuclear weapons.

Behind this strong support are growing concerns about North Korean intentions. Various polls indicate that 80% to 90% of South Koreans think it will not be possible to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula anytime soon, given the North’s intransigence.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, greets U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a meeting in Seoul on Jan. 31. (South Korea Presidential Office/Yonhap via AP)

Compared with Japan, the only country ever hit by atomic bombs, South Korea has few qualms about acquiring a nuclear deterrent. With North Korea hinting at the possible use of tactical nuclear arms, many South Koreas think that it is futile to try to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms, and that it is best to respond to nuclear threats with nuclear weapons of its own.

It is not just when conservatives are in power that the public has shown strong interest in a nuclear deterrent. In a survey result published by the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-backed think tank, in late 2021 — when liberal President Moon Jae-in was in office — 71% of South Koreans backed the idea of the country going nuclear.

There is also growing public wariness of China. According to a joint survey conducted in Japan and South Korea between July and August 2022 by Tokyo-based nonprofit The Genron NPO and others, nearly two in three South Koreans said they see China as a “military threat.” A survey taken in February through June of the same year by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center found that 80% of respondents had negative views of China.

Given the country’s painful history of exploitation and oppression by foreign powers, both liberals and conservatives tend to seek greater self-reliance in defense, with many seeing nuclear weapons as an effective means of ensuring national sovereignty and survival. Unlike many other countries, liberals tend to be more nationalistic than conservatives in South Korea.

Some South Koreans also remain distrustful of the U.S. In fact, many still talk about the Katsura-Taft agreement of 1905 and the Acheson line of 1950. The former refers to a secret accord reached between Japanese Prime Minister Taro Katsura and U.S. Secretary of War William Taft that ceded control of the Korean Peninsula to Japan in exchange for its pledge not to interfere in the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. Many see the agreement as a precursor to Japan’s annexation of the peninsula in 1910.

The Acheson line refers to a strategic defense line mentioned by U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1950. Acheson said the peninsula would fall outside the U.S. defense line, a comment that some believe triggered the invasion of South Korea by Pyongyang, which took his words as a sign of Washington’s reluctance to defend the South.

In the 1970s, South Korea, which still lagged the North in terms of military power, embarked on a covert nuclear weapons development program under President Park Chung-hee, who feared that the U.S. would abandon South Korea at some point.

Seoul dropped the project in the face of strong objections from Washington. Yet a half-century later North Korea’s drive to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of targeting the entire U.S. mainland is fueling concern about American willingness to risk its security to protect South Korea. Yoon’s recent statement regarding nuclear arms reflects public concern about the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Earlier this year, Yoon said South Korea may have to consider acquiring its own nuclear deterrent if the North further escalates its nuclear provocations. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration quickly denied that the U.S. had any plan to reintroduce nuclear weapons into South Korea, as it continues to push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S., which deployed nuclear weapons to the country in 1958, withdrew them in 1991.

Biden is also critical of the idea of South Korea developing its own nuclear arms. In response, Yoon said he would seek “a realistically possible option.”

North Korea shows off missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang on Feb. 8. (KCNA via Reuters)   

Based on an accord between Seoul and Washington, South Korean forces will come under U.S. operational command in a military emergency. The alliance would probably collapse if Seoul pursues nuclear development in the face of U.S. opposition. Yoon is unlikely to risk that possibility, many pundits say.

On Jan. 31, Austin and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-sup, reaffirmed that the U.S. will continue working to strengthen its extended deterrence. Austin said the U.S. would deploy more advanced tactical weapons to South Korea, including F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. But he disappointed South Korean officials, who had hoped he would mention giving Seoul a role in the operation of U.S. nuclear forces under a “nuclear-sharing” arrangement, or starting “routine” and “continuous” stationing of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines in waters around the Korean Peninsula.

Washington and Seoul continue to tread a fine diplomatic line: While Yoon does not hide his interest in obtaining nuclear arms, the U.S. has refrained from criticizing him harshly, showing some understanding of South Korean sentiment, as demonstrated by Austin.

While engaging in a tug of war over nuclear issues, Washington and Seoul are well aware of the impact such talks could have on Beijing, which is increasingly concerned about the prospects of “nuclear dominoes” falling in East Asia, the potential for nuclear proliferation from South Korea to Taiwan to Japan.

It seems the tussle between the U.S. and South Korea has also had an effect on North Korea, which has stepped up its nuclear and missile development programs, but has so far refrained from holding a seventh nuclear test.