South Korea’s Nuclear Defense

Source: Getty
Op-Ed Arms Control Wonk
Summary
Washington and Seoul are working on a diplomatic response to accompany their resolve not to blink should Kim Jong-un launch an attack, and they also want to wrap up two years of negotiations on a new bilateral agreement for nuclear cooperation.
Related Media and Tools
 

In a few weeks, South Korea’s newly-elected President, Park Geun-hye, will arrive in the United States on her first state visit. Between now and then, Washington and Seoul will be working on a diplomatic response to accompany their resolve not to blink should Kim Jong-un launch an attack, and they also want to wrap up two years of negotiations on a new bilateral agreement for nuclear cooperation. John Kerry will soon be on the way to South Korea, and the ROK diplomat leading the nuclear cooperation talks, Ambassador Park Ro-byung, will soon come to Washington.

Beforehand–on Monday and Tuesday–we at the Carnegie Endowment will be putting on the 2013 version of the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference. And at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 9, we’ll give the floor to Chung Mong-joon, a seven-year member of the Korean National Assembly and former Chairman of Korea’s Grand National Party.

I saw Chung Mong-joon in Seoul in February on occasion of the Asan 2013 Nuclear Forum, for which he served as Honorary Chairman. A couple days before, North Korea had carried out its third nuclear test. En route to Seoul for the conference, we learned that the agenda of the meeting would be changed to reflect the urgency of Pyongyang’s escalation of its nuclear threats.

Chung and Bob Gallucci opened the Asan Conference on February 19. The total absence of Gallucci’s usual light touch in his remarks set the tone of the conference and, following up, Chung rubbed it in for all who cared to listen: The U.S. must re-deploy theater nuclear weapons on South Korean territory “because the threat of a counter nuclear force is the only thing that will discourage North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal.” Beyond that, he said, the U.S.-ROK alliance “has been an abject failure” leading some South Koreans to conclude that South Korea would never be able to negotiate at eye-level with North Korea unless it had its own nuclear deterrent.

So I have a few questions that I hope find answers during and around Chung Mong-joon’s appearance on Tuesday:

  • Who, exactly, really advocates South Korea having nuclear weapons?
  • Has the South Korean strategic community seriously explored what having nuclear weapons would mean for South Korea?
  • What would be South Korea’s path to obtaining nuclear weapons?
  • What would be the cost-benefit calculus?
  • Doesn’t the relatively nonplussed response of ROK citizens to the North’s recent escalation imply instead that they are not intimidated and therefore are not prepared to take the risks associated with reaching for nuclear weapons?

Then there’s the issue of the ongoing nuclear cooperation agreement negotiation.

The official South Korean view is that this negotiation has nothing to do with North Korea and with nuclear weapons. I’m not satisfied that’s true.

Both parties agree on nearly all of the text for a new agreement but there are serious differences over one major issue: South Korea wants the United States to give it carte blanche approval to pyroprocess spent fuel and enrich uranium covered by U.S. consent rights under the current agreement which expires next year.

The U.S. so far is not prepared to agree to this.

The more-or-less official reason for the U.S. position is threefold: 1.) The U.S. wants to discourage the spread of enrichment and reprocessing (including pyroprocessing) capabilities beyond countries which already are deploying them; 2.) enrichment and pyroprocessing by the ROK would be contrary to the 1992 agreement by both Korean states not to do that on their territories; and 3.) Reprocessing and enrichment in South Korea would exacerbate tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region.

From Washington’s point of view, reason 1. looks straightforward: If the ROK is given programatic approval to reprocess and enrich, other states will be encouraged to follow suit.

Reason 2. is more of a problem–including for South Korea. Seoul’s 1992 no-enrichment and no-reprocessing pledge linked these sensitive nuclear technologies to concern about nuclear weapons proliferation. South Korean advocates can press their case for enrichment and reprocessing now because North Korea violated its pledge and is using sensitive fuel processing technology to make nuclear weapons.

Then there is reason 3: “Increased tension on the Korean peninsula and in the region.” That sounds like a State Department formula intended to cover any unpleasant development. What does it really mean? Does it include residual U.S. concern about the absoluteness of South Korea’s NPT commitment? A few people who will not speak for the record will express the view that it does. Others may disagree.

Carnegie’s Doug Paal will lead the discussion after Chung Mong-joon’s remarks on Tuesday morning. Perhaps we’ll get authoritative answers to these questions then and throughout the conference.

This article was originally published in Arms Control Wonk.

End of document

About the Nuclear Policy Program

The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.

 

Comments (1)

 
 
  • Nuketalk makes everyone growe in defense mind
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/m/bizleaders/2013-04/09/content_16386301.htm

    Wonderfull speach peter.olzon@spray.se
     
     
    Reply to this post

     
    Close Panel
 
Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/04/08/south-korea-s-nuclear-defense/fyb3

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
 
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.

请注意...

你将离开清华—卡内基中心网站,进入卡内基其他全球中心的网站。