Is the US’ pledge to share nuclear planning insights with South Korea enough to deter North Korean threat?

The devil is always in the details, Dr Hastings told CNA938. “Partly because the question that any ally would have is, ‘Is the US willing to give up one of its cities to protect ours?’”

North Korea’s rapidly advancing weapons programmes – including ballistic missiles that can reach US cities – have raised concerns about whether the US would really use its nuclear weapons to defend South Korea under what it calls “extended deterrence”. 

Meanwhile, opinion polls in South Korea show a majority of the public wants Seoul to acquire its own nuclear bombs in response to the North Korean threat, something which Washington opposes. 

“As long as South Korea feels that the sort of assertions and the assurances that the US has made are sort of credible in some way, that South Korea will, at least, sort of hold off from doing that,” said Dr Hastings, adding that the country will reaffirm its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

“The US is trying to essentially step up nuclear weapons information sharing and cooperation, and putting nuclear assets in the Korean peninsula as a way of reassuring South Korea that they don’t need to develop nuclear weapons because there’s sufficient cover by the US.”

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