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South Korea Faces Growing Calls to Acquire Nuclear Weapons

An F-15K fires two joint direct attack munition (JDAM) bombs against a virtual target at the Jikdo shooting field in the West Sea, Tuesday. Courtesy of Joint Chiefs of Staff

South Korea is facing growing calls to acquire nuclear weapons irrespective of ideological dogma. Such calls are being fueled by North Korea's growing nuclear menace and misgivings about the U.S.' extended deterrence if Pyongyang decides to attack its southern neighbor.

"There has been a nuclear taboo ― a normative inhibition against the first use of nuclear weapons ― but Russia is about to break it in its war against Ukraine, thereby stoking concerns among countries, (including South Korea) that do not have their own nuclear weapons," said Go Myong-hyun, a senior fellow of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Go added that, despite Russia's threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, the United States and NATO were poised to respond to it with conventional weapons, with many South Koreans fearful of Washington's possible half-hearted response to North Korea's potential nuclear attack against the South.

Cheong Seong-chang, the director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, also said that the growing interest in the development of a domestic nuclear weapons program comes as the U.S.' steadfast nuclear retaliation, in the case of North Korea using nuclear weapons against South Korea, appears uncertain.

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