Edition

Mind the Gaps: Reading South Korea’s Emergent Proliferation Strategy

IN THIS ISSUE: Mind the Gaps: Reading South Korea’s Emergent Proliferation Strategy, North Korea Warns US of Nuclear Retaliation as Tensions Rise, S. Korean Nuclear Envoy Heads to Japan for Trilateral Talks on N.K. Threats, US Projected to Spend $117B on Nuke Command and Control in Next Decade, What We Learned From Recent Calls for a Russian Nuclear Attack, Watching Ukraine, South Korea and Japan

Published on July 20, 2023

Mind the Gaps: Reading South Korea’s Emergent Proliferation Strategy

Eric Brewer, Toby Dalton, and Kylie Jones | Washington Quarterly 

South Korea has long been on the list of potential over-the-horizon proliferation challenges, but growing debates in Seoul about its nuclear options are quickly moving it toward the front of the US nonproliferation agenda. Indeed, proliferation concerns featured prominently at the April 2023 Republic of Korea (ROK)-US summit, where Washington sought South Korean reaffirmation of its “longstanding commitment to its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty” in return for efforts to bolster extended nuclear deterrence. For decades, calls in South Korea for nuclear armament remained relegated to the political fringes and did not receive serious policy attention. That has begun to change in recent years. South Korean nuclear weapons advocates and those sympathetic to the idea are becoming more numerous, louder, and are increasingly drawn from a broader cross-section of the national security community

North Korea Warns US of Nuclear Retaliation as Tensions Rise

Al Jazeera

North Korea’s defence minister has warned the United States that the deployment of nuclear assets in South Korea could meet the conditions for its use of nuclear arms, according to state media. Kang Sun Nam’s comments, reported on Thursday by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), came in response to the US sending a submarine with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to South Korea this week for the first time in decades.

S. Korean Nuclear Envoy Heads to Japan for Trilateral Talks on N.K. Threats

Chang Dong-woo | Yonhap News

South Korea's top nuclear envoy on Wednesday traveled to Japan to hold talks with his United States and Japanese counterparts on North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile provocations. Kim Gunn, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, plans to meet with his American and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively, in Tokyo on Thursday. The three sides are expected to discuss ways to deal with Pyongyang's growing provocations, highlighted by the launch of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile last week. They are also expected to discuss response measures against the North's illegal cyber activities used as new ways of financing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile developments.

US Projected to Spend $117B on Nuke Command and Control in Next Decade

Colin Demarest | Defense News

Operating, upgrading and maintaining the systems the U.S. Department of Defense relies upon to monitor, ready and launch devastating nuclear weapons is expected to cost $117 billion over the coming decade, according to independent analysis of federal spending plans…The CBO attributed the increase to a ramping up of nuclear modernization — including the replacement of the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center and E-6B Take Charge and Move Out aircraft — as well as certain items appearing in budgets for the first time.

What We Learned From Recent Calls for a Russian Nuclear Attack

Andrey Baklitskiy | Carnegie Politika

The Russian leadership is obviously struggling to find a way in which nuclear threats could strengthen its position in Ukraine and give it an edge in the confrontation with the West. The Russian Foreign Ministry, for example, regularly states that a military escalation could trigger a nuclear war. But it is unable to provide any details on the chain of events that would lead to such an outcome.

Watching Ukraine, South Korea and Japan Eye Nuclear Weapons. Here’s What the US Should Do

Sayuri Romei | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 

The South Korean nuclear discourse seems to have taken a particularly sharp turn since the war in Ukraine started…As Carnegie senior fellow Toby Dalton puts it, South Korea “is exhibit A” for recent developments in the international security environment, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s rapid military buildup, and North Korea’s mounting provocations.