More than 530 people attend the 26th Vision Korea National Conference held to celebrate the 51st anniversary of Maeil Business Newspaper on Thursday. [photo by Kim Jae-hoon]
For fundamental deterrence against escalating North Korean nuclear weapons threat, South Korea should seriously consider going nuclear through the options of using the country’s existing advanced facility and technology in producing commercial nuclear energy or sharing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, advised experts from home and abroad.
The Korea Security Report, compiled by the Maeil Business Newspaper and Sejong Institute with the help of over 40 experts on North Korea, security, political, economic, and international affairs, set the stage for public debate on the nuclear option for South Korea that has long been a tabooed idea.
Among the advisers were Baek Jong-chun, former presidential secretary on foreign and security policy and Edwin Feulner, former president of Heritage Foundation.
The three-month work released as the agenda for the 26th Vision Korea National Conference on Thursday examines the geopolitical developments, North Korea’s marked advances in nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, provocations, and arms capabilities of North Korea and allied South Korea-U.S. to substantiate grounds for South Korea’s nuclear armament for “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), a Cold War doctrine based on the Nash equilibrium theory arguing that once armed with full-scale nuclear weapons, neither side can initiate a conflict.
The voice of nuclear sovereignty that had so far been limited to extreme rightists gained attention and support upon recent North Korean nuclear and missile tests demonstrating the regime is near perfecting the technology of blasting off missiles in various ranges with miniaturized nuclear warheads. Adding to worries were the campaign statements from President Donald Trump suggesting disengagement from Asian traditional security allies unless they share greater defense cost.
For decisive deterrence and “upgrade” in security policy, the report suggested that Seoul first negotiate to revise bilateral civil nuclear agreement with Washington that bans the use of U.S.-origin materials for military purposes. Although cited as closest traditionally ally, Seoul is discriminated by Washington over use of nuclear energy more than India, Brazil, and Argentina, the report claimed.
South Korea is strictly regulated in processing of spent fuel and enriching uranium and must largely rely on U.S. fuel imports to run its 25 nuclear reactors even after gaining a slight adjustment from 2015 talks.
Japan on the other hand is free to enrich uranium and recycle spent fuel. If South Korea is licensed to the use of fuel to the extent of Japan, it could quickly be able to develop nuclear weapons with existing resources as the last resort. South Korea at least would have leverage against the North, the report said.
Another option would be gaining NATO-like access to U.S. weapons. The U.S. deploys its nuclear weapons in five non-nuclear North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries - Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey - under the nuclear sharing policy to enable the use of the weapons by NATO members. Although the U.S. has the last say in their use, the member countries can mount them in weapons systems.
South Korea also must push for greater distance in its rockets for future space and deterrence capabilities. North Korea is working on a ballistic missile that can fly as far as 15,000 kilometers, but South Korea’s ballistic missile cannot go beyond 800 kilometers.
“North Korea’s reckless nuclear tests and missile provocations threaten not only the Korean peninsula but regional and global peace,” said Korea’s acting president and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn at the conference. “The nation must achieve unity and harmony to fight the security challenges together,” he said.
By Noh Hyun and Choi Seung-jin
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