Obama restricts nuclear posture except for NorthThe United States will make an exception for “outliers like ... North Korea” in its revamped nuclear strategy, assuring South Korea that its protective nuclear umbrella will remain in place.
In an interview with The New York Times, President Barack Obama said North Korea will be an exception even after the United States historically narrows conditions under which it would deploy nuclear weapons.
The Nuclear Posture Review, which will include new U.S. nuclear strategies, was set to be unveiled after press time last night, Korean time.
Obama told The Times that in the future, the United States will commit to refrain from use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-armed nations in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attack the United States with biological or chemical weapons, or wage a cyber attack. The exceptions to this policy will be “outliers like Iran and North Korea,” Obama said.
A South Korean diplomatic source said that U.S. officials had already assured their Seoul counterparts of the U.S. commitment to the extended nuclear deterrence. “South Korea is one of only four countries, along with Australia, New Zealand and Israel, for whom the United States offered explanations on its Nuclear Posture Review before its release,” the source said. “The South Korean government demanded clarification from Washington regarding its changed nuclear stance and we received all these assurances.”
Obama spoke to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on April 1 and told him the new U.S. nuclear strategy would not alter the nuclear umbrella for Korea. Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, gave the same assurance during his visit to Seoul on April 2.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the sentiment during a phone conversation with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan yesterday. Under the extended deterrence, the United States would react to a nuclear attack on its ally with the same capabilities it would use for a strike on U.S. territory.
The concept also includes the possibility of pre-emptive use of U.S. nuclear weapons. The U.S. decision to make an exception for North Korea comes as the international community tries to bring the North back to the six-party talks. In the past, Pyongyang used the U.S. nuclear strategy as its justification for developing nuclear weapons.
In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the international accord limiting the spread of nuclear weapons. The North is among the nonmembers of the treaty that has openly tested nuclear devices and claimed possession of nuclear weapons.
In the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, published during the George W. Bush administration, the United States reserved the right to use nuclear weapons for “immediate, potential or unexpected” contingencies and dubbed North Korea a “chronic military concern” that could be involved in such contingencies. North Korea at the time claimed that the United States was preparing to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike at it. It has since conducted two nuclear tests.
By Yoo Jee-ho, Kang Chan-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]