Nuclear Option Is the Only Way Forward for S.Korea

      September 12, 2017 12:34

      Talk of tougher sanctions against North Korea in response to its latest nuclear test turned out to be just a lot of huffing and puffing. The sanctions actually approved by the UN Security Council are not to be laughed at, but they are still terribly inadequate if their aim is to get North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear and missile programs. If anything, the bickering that preceded them probably emboldened him, because he knows that China and Russia will always have his back. The U.S. and South Korea wanted a total oil embargo, but Russia and China sided with North Korea because they cannot allow the regime to collapse.

      U.S. President Donald Trump talks tough, but it has become clear that he is incapable of winning over China and Russia on the issue. Now, Kim will push the envelope even further with more nuclear and missile tests. Once he has perfected a nuclear-tipped intercontinental missile, he may well demand the pullout of U.S. troops from South Korea and an end to the Seoul-Washington alliance.

      South Korea's 50 million people are hostages to North Korea's nuclear weapons, but the international community has its hands tied behind its back. The world may be trying to isolate North Korea, but it is South Korea that seems to be finding itself increasingly isolated when it comes to being able to its defense. Any sanctions against North Korea must be pursued from a long-term perspective, but that does not mean South Koreans should be exposed to the North's threats in the meantime.

      U.S. Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a TV interview on Monday that the prospect of redeploying tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea "ought to be seriously considered." Only a few months ago he explicitly opposed it. But he changed his mind after North Korea's latest nuclear test, probably because there is now no other option. Trump was reportedly the first to consider the tactical nuke option, and now the U.S. Senate is also weighing that possibility.

      Once Seoul asks the U.S. to deploy tactical nukes here again, the issue will be seriously considered by Washington. The Moon Jae-in administration continues to deny that the matter is being considered since it would destroy any legitimacy Seoul has in seeking to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. That kind of thinking would have made sense just a few years ago, but the situation is starkly different now and dovish sentiments have become absurd. North Korea has seen again and again that tough talk from the UN Security Council is so much hot air. Now it will never give up its nukes.

      The government must accept this. If it truly intends to protect South Korean lives, it must start talks with the U.S. over the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons. A nuclear threat can only be deterred by a nuclear defense. Meaningful talks with North Korea can start only once a true balance of power has been achieved.

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