An oft-stated South Korean objective in bilateral nuclear negotiations with the United States is to achieve "peaceful nuclear sovereignty." This complex term, reflecting South Korea's desire to decrease U.S. leverage over its nuclear affairs, has multiple connotations, including energy security, industry competitiveness, legitimate rights, status, and autonomy.

There are tensions among these competing objectives, which, coupled with the inherent limitations on nuclear independence resulting from international nuclear trade regimes, make the concept of peaceful nuclear sovereignty a chimera.

Other states—Iran, Brazil, and Turkey, for instance—are driven by similar sentiments, meaning that Washington must take care to resolve its differences with Seoul in a way that balances nonproliferation and nuclear energy interests.

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