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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 25)

07:04 January 25, 2023

Clear concerns about the nuclear threat

As North Korea's uninterrupted acceleration of nuclear weapons development fuels a sense of insecurity among South Koreans, security experts at home and abroad increasingly mention the need for South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons or redeploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. Amid the tense security situation in the Korean Peninsula, a change of position at a U.S. think tank draws our attention.

The shocking report has been released by a bipartisan commission on Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula under the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the most powefrul think tanks in America. The report mentioned deepening concerns of South Koreans about the U.S. extended deterrence. The report also stressed that Washington must not allow Seoul to develop nuclear weapons.

The most noteworthy part in the report is its mentioning of the possibility of redeploying tactical nukes in South Korea. The report cited the need for the two allies to consider taking preparatory steps, including simulation training, to brace for the possibility of redeploying low-yield nuclear weapons in the South.

Public mentioning of the likelihood of relocating tactical nukes by a prestigious research center in the U.S. is the first of its kind. In a stunning about-face, the bipartisan commission co-chaired by CSIS Director John Hamley and Harvard University Prof. Joseph Nye has changed its position for the first time since the establishment of the CSIS in 1962.

Such a different voice reflects significant changes among U.S. experts after North Korea posed a substantial security threat to Seoul and Washington. In a recent domestic survey on South Korea's own nuclear armaments, over 60 percent supported it. In another survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, up to 71 percent of South Koreans favored their own nuclear armaments.

In a New Year's briefing by the foreign and defense ministries, President Yoon Suk Yeol raised the possibility of developing nuclear weapons on our own if the North Korean nuclear threats get more serious. Earlier, the president said the two allies are discussing ways to conduct drills to use U.S. nuclear forces to jointly cope with the North Korean nuclear threats.

Given the international sanctions from our departure from the Nonproliferation Treaty, our own nuclear armaments could not be a realistic solution. But with North Korea likely having as many as 80 warheads, we cannot sit on our hands. The government must do its best to clear the people's security woes to ensure the efficacy of the nuclear umbrella on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the alliance.
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