[VIEWPOINT]Deterrence can be a powerful toolAt the 38th annual Security Consultation Meeting between South Korea and the United States held recently in Washington, the U.S. government promised to provide deterrence continuously against nuclear proliferation by providing a U.S. nuclear umbrella to South Korea. Since 1978, Washington has annually promised to provide the U.S. nuclear umbrella, a firm commitment to the pledge of the defense of South Korea. This time, Washington has also agreed to try to deter the North’s nuclear proliferation.
Deterrence of nuclear proliferation is the concept the United States used to defend NATO allies from the military threats of the Soviet Union. By showing a strong will to launch attacks on the heartland of the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, Washington successfully restrained the Soviet Union from launching attacks on U.S. allies in Europe, either with conventional weapons or nuclear weapons. The United States has used the concept of a nuclear umbrella for South Korea and Japan until now. In the case of the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. nuclear umbrella has successfully restrained North Korea because it expresses a strong will to retaliate against the North through all possible means, including nuclear weapons.
The reason the two concepts are combined in the Korea-U.S. joint statement this year is because North Korea’s nuclear threat has become visible, so both the United States and South Korea believe it is necessary not only to review nuclear deterrence, but also to try to prevent the possibility that the North will use its nuclear arsenal. South Korea asked the United States to strengthen its nuclear deterrence, and the United States offered to use a word coined by the combination of a U.S. nuclear umbrella and nuclear deterrence. By strengthening nuclear deterrence, the two countries tried to ease the worries of South Koreans and the whole world over security. In this agreement, there is a stern message to Kim Jong-il: If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, the U.S. will inflict enormous retaliation on the North.
Some people want the U.S. nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrella to be made more concrete. But it is not necessary to explain the definition of nuclear proliferation deterrence in detail. U.S. nuclear deterrence is influenced not only by the military aspects, but also by the degree of commonality of the national interests of South Korea and the United States, the strength of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, the stationing of U.S. forces in Korea and the degree of mutual confidence between the two countries.
Also, the effect of the deterrence will grow if it is used secretly and widely. The effect will be reduced if its contents and scope are leaked to the adversary.
In order to prevent North Korea’s nuclear development and proliferation, it is necessary to refer to the new nuclear strategy and tailored deterrence strategy presented by the United States after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The U.S. strategies imply that the United States will, to defend its homeland and its allies, mobilize its military capabilities scattered around the world, activate its missile defense system, launch nuclear attacks, make precision strikes at enemy facilities with the use of state-of-the-art conventional weapons and the C41 sentry system and strengthen its Proliferation Security Initiative.
Here, we should take note that, with only nuclear deterrence, there is a limit in preventing the North’s tenacious nuclear development.
In order to deter North Korea’s continued nuclear weapons development, international society needs to be united and handle the North in the same manner.
North Korea remembers that the sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan after the two countries each tested nuclear bombs were hushed up after a year. They may hope the same thing will happen this time, too. But the North should keep in mind that the UN Security Council Resolution 1718 was adopted unanimously and that a consensus was made in the international community to impose diplomatic and economic sanctions on North Korea.
From now, although North Korea should be induced to return to the six-party talks, the meeting should be operated in the manner of forcing North Korea to give up nuclear development programs. In order to do that, cooperation among five participants in the talks ― South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia ― is crucial.
The active participation of China, which has the largest economic leverage on North Korea, in enforcing international sanctions is a short-cut to making North Korea give up its nuclear development program.
South Korea, too, has to send a clear message to the North Korean leadership by actively participating in the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution.
* The writer is the director of the Research Institute on National Security Affairs at the Korean National Defense University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Han Yong-sub