The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

Why Some Koreans Want Nuclear Weapons

This year, an American nuclear submarine docked at a Korean port for the second time. This results from the Washington Declaration, an agreement between ROK president Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. president Joe Biden. Struck in April, the compact reassures Seoul of the continuing coverage of Washington’s nuclear umbrella, calming national fervor in support of a Korean nuclear program.

But despite the submarine’s “strong signal,” it doesn’t solve the underlying issue, said Dr. Cheong Seong-Chang, Director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, when I interviewed him in Seoul in late June. Cheong has been one of the leading scholars advocating for Korea’s indigenous nuclear development, and he thinks the need now is still as serious as ever.

According to Cheong, South Korea faces significant threats. It’s not just North Korea, which has recently tested solid fuel rockets and displayed a miniature nuclear warhead that could fit on short-range ballistic missiles aimed at South Korea and Japan. China and Russia are also nuclear-armed potential adversaries with whom South Korea’s relations are worsening. China’s nuclear stockpile will rise to 1,500 warheads in the next decade.

“South Korea is mostly concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program,” Cheong said, “but China’s nuclear threat is also growing.”

Cheong envisions a world where South Korea can provide nuclear deterrence, free from American constraints or unreliability.

He’s not the only one. Surveys earlier this year showed 70 percent or more of Koreans think South Korea needs its own nuclear weapons program. Parsing survey data is always tricky. There’s often a difference between what people might say in response to a hypothetical question and how people would think and act in reality. Another survey conducted in June found that 49.5 percent of Koreans prefer having U.S. troops provide deterrence, versus 33.8 percent prefer having their own South Korean nuclear program. But Cheong argues that a ROK nuclear program need not be the end of the alliance. In fact, it could strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance in the next 70 years.

Read more at National Interest

Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.


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The DEFCON Warning System is a private intelligence organization which has monitored and assessed nuclear threats by national entities since 1984. It is not affiliated with any government agency and does not represent the alert status of any military branch. The public should make their own evaluations and not rely on the DEFCON Warning System for any strategic planning. At all times, citizens are urged to learn what steps to take in the event of a nuclear attack.