January 22, 2016 09:31
Failure by the U.S. government to respond properly to North Korea's nuclear threat could prompt a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia, an American think tanks warns.
"By extending the U.S. nuclear umbrella, [Washington] has assured allies that should they face a nuclear threat, the United States would be prepared to respond in kind on their behalf," the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report titled "Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025" released on Wednesday.
"North Korea's persistent development and expansion of nuclear and missile capabilities has made these assurances all the more important," it added.
"If security conditions erode further, the nonproliferation regime weakens, or the crisis of confidence in U.S. security guarantees takes deeper hold, then political pressures within South Korea and Japan could make nuclear weapons capabilities more attractive to U.S. allies."
The center warns that it is questionable if such curbs on nuclear development in countries allied with the U.S. can last indefinitely.
"The recent negotiation of a nuclear cooperation agreement between Washington and Seoul managed to avoid approval of South Korean uranium enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing, but the question may arise in the next decade," the report said.
"Especially in light of the legitimization of Iran's uranium enrichment program," the U.S.'s reluctance to allow its ally South Korea to enrich its own uranium may give rise to questions of fairness, and the questions could arise again in future negotiations.
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