There Is No Case for South Korean Nuclear Weapons

The U.S. would also be a poor ally if it allowed one of its principal Asian allies to make a serious error like this

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Surprising no one, Max Boot gets another important foreign policy call wrong:

But if, in the future, South Korea does decide to go nuclear, it should not be a game changer for the United States. The United States has long tolerated nuclear weapons owned by friendly states such as France, Britain, Israel, Pakistan and India, while opposing their acquisition by rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea. Having South Korea join the nuclear club wouldn’t change that.

Ultimately, it should be South Korea’s call. We should refrain from applying heavy-handed pressure and respect whatever decision our democratic ally makes.

US allies are sovereign and independent states, but that doesn’t mean that the US has to accept or tolerate everything they choose to do. The US would also be a poor ally if it allowed one of its principal Asian allies to make a serious error like this. South Korean nuclear weapons would not make South Korea more secure than it is for the reasons I laid out the other day, and it is very likely that South Korea would actually be worse off after acquiring them:

South Korean arsenal could end up causing South Korea a lot of economic pain and conjuring up new security threats for the dubious gains of further guarding against an attack that was already being deterred.

If the US respects its ally, it has the obligation to tell the truth when it sees that ally making a profound mistake.

The US has “tolerated” some nuclear weapons states outside the NPT only because it was in no position to discourage them from acquiring nuclear weapons when it mattered. Israel, India, and Pakistan weren’t and aren’t treaty allies of the United States, and the US certainly didn’t approve of India and Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons when it happened. A US treaty ally flouting the nonproliferation regime with tacit American approval is very different from “tolerating” weapons development by states that never belonged to the NPT.

Van Jackson recently wrote about this issue at Un-Diplomatic:

Basically, we’ve yet to see a reasonable strategic argument. Throwing around “deterrence” and “credibility” and US “abandonment” – it’s just words. They’re not being assembled into logics or causal wagers. As with AUKUS in Australia, the motivation for the policy is clear; the justification is missing. And that’s disturbing because we think nukes will make South Korea substantially less secure.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

18 thoughts on “There Is No Case for South Korean Nuclear Weapons”

  1. “US allies are sovereign and independent states,”
    I totally agree.
    “but that doesn’t mean that the US has to accept or tolerate everything they choose to do”
    That is where I’m having problems…….

  2. It shouldn’t be a choice for anyone to acquire nuclear weapons, including those countries that already have them. Only a psychopath would say that it should be a country’s choice whether to acquire them. In reality of course it is that country’s choice, unfortunately, but advocating that is beyond disgusting.

    These evil planet-killing weapons should have been abolished globally decades ago. The fact that they haven’t been has now created a great danger that they will be used en masse, which would end all or most life on Earth.

  3. South Korea’s politics is extremely polarized, just like the US. The last election was decided on a knife’s edge that put the hawks in power. The difference though, South Korea at least have one party that generally opposes NATO and war, whereas we have the choice between a blue war party and a red war party…

  4. Robert Kennedy gets it right!

    Apr 22, 2023 Robert Kennedy: I’ll CLOSE all the military bases and bring the troops home!

    Robert F Kennedy kicked off his bid for the Presidency proving he is for pretty much everything present-day politicians are against: He is against military expansion, he is against censorship, against the CIA, against authoritarianism. He’ll get no mainstream media coverage for this! So we’ll give him some air time and discuss his ideas on Redacted. What do you think? Has he got a chance?

    1. RFK Jr has no chance of winning. It’s good he wants to shut down US Bases in foreign lands & bring the troops home where they belong. The Democratic Candidate I want is Marianne Williamson. She wants to do the same thing & wants to create a Department of Peace. She is a lot more normal than RFK Jr.

      1. Actually, it only took me a couple of minutes to discover she does not know science.

        February 24, 2023 1500 Scientists Say ‘There Is No Climate Emergency’ – The Real Environment Movement Was Hijacked

        Are you aware that 1500 of the world’s leading climate scientists and professionals in over 30 countries have signed a declaration that there is no climate emergency and have refuted the United Nations claims in relation to man-made climate change?

        Apr 22, 2022 Climate Emergency! | Marianne Williamson in conversation with climate Scientist Peter Kalmus

        Marianne Williamson interviews climate scientist Peter Kalmus for Earth Day.

        1. I don’t know what has caused climate change. I do know that 3 weeks ago it was 40 degrees above normal and today it’s 20 degrees below normal and it’s snowing. It’s May 1rst!! Now if this was just an occasional thing, I could shrug it off, but the occurrences are getting much more frequent. Everything is extreme and we rarely have “normal” anymore.

          1. Yes, I realize weather isn’t climate. Like I said, this isn’t an “occasional” thing. I noticed a pattern since the 2013-14 winter when I first heard the term “polar vortex” when “normal” weather seemingly became a thing of the past.

          2. Here is another informative read.

            December 22, 2008 Solar Activity Between 1250-1850 Linked To Temperature Changes In Siberia

            An ice core drilled at the Belukha glacier in the Siberian Altai by a Swiss-Russian research team under the leadership of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in 2001 has now provided new findings in climate research. Oxygen isotopes in the ice were used to reconstruct the temperatures in the Altai over the past 750 years.


          3. Burning fossil fuels, aka industrial society, is what’s causing the climate crisis, this is totally elementary. Anyone who says it’s not real or that humans aren’t causing it is as full of it as it gets. Despite Gary’s BS here, climate scientists are almost unanimous in this, and they’re more sure from a scientific perspective that burning fossil fuels is causing the climate crisis than they are that smoking causes cancer.

      2. Kennedy is polling at almost 20%, and that’s while being censored. Williamson is well below that, and has shown that she’s uninformed about some important issues (this was exposed in an interview in the 2020 campaign), despite her heart seeming to be in the right place. I don’t expect either of them to get the Democratic nomination, but at least Kennedy has the name and the money to campaign.

        What do you mean about Kennedy not being normal? He was the head of the major environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council (too conservative for me, but still a major group). I think he may go a little too far in his claims about the harms caused by vaccines, but I would support almost anyone who’s willing to close all the U.S. foreign military bases.

        1. When I say RFK Jr is not normal, I mean he says vaccines are useless. He reminds me of Trump in that way. He is good about wanting us to get out of the wars we are in, I’m not sure where he stands on the following: sanctions & drone strikes against Iran, sanctions against Cuba & Venezuela & the drug war in Mexico. If he is for that, he is very much like Trump which is another thing I dislike about him.

          1. Don’t know his positions on those issues. But he wants to close all U.S. foreign military bases, so I assume he’d oppose those sanctions.

            Saying that you don’t like him because he’s like Trump makes no sense. First, you say that he’s like Trump if he has some views you don’t like, but you don’t even know what his views on those issues are. Second, even if he takes positions on those issues that you don’t like, is he also racist, sexist, and homophobic like Trump?

          2. If RFK Jr supports white supremacists, calls Mexican men rapists, blames Asians for the Corona Virus & says we should invade Mexico, he is a racist. If he blames LGBT+ people for AIDS & sexual harassment, he is homophobic & if he is a sexual predator like Trump, he is a sexist.

          3. Another thing that would make him racist is supporting Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories & supporting drone strikes & sanctions against Iran.

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