Choosing nuclear is a mistakeThe U.S. Congress is deciding whether to pressure the U.S. government to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. House Armed Services Committee, dominated by Republicans, last week passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2013 that supports steps to deploy additional conventional forces and redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to the Western Pacific region.
If approved, the measure would also require the Department of Defense and Department of State to submit to Congress a feasibility study and action plan for refielding nonstrategic nuclear arms within 90 days. Some politicians from both South Korea and the U.S. have previously called for redeployment of nuclear weapons, which were entirely withdrawn from the region in 1991, to reinforce deterrence against North Korea since its government continues to develop missiles and nuclear arms.
Pyongyang seemingly justified such calls with its recent rocket launch and gestures toward another nuclear test.
North Korea’s nuclear problem has long been in stalemate with few signs for a breakthrough in the near future. But refielding nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula would do little to help the peace and security of the region. The plan also contradicts U.S. President Barack Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.
South Korea became nuclear free after the U.S. withdrew 100 tactical nuclear weapons following the joint declaration of Korean denuclearization in 1991. Citing this commitment, Seoul has continuously demanded the dismantlement of North Korea’s weapons and initiated the six-party talks on denuclearization.
Having conventional nuclear weapons back in our territory might provide psychological comfort, but it could be a step backward that would generate more harm than good. For one, such a decision would give Pyongyang, and least in its own mind, justification to pursue further development of weapons of mass destruction. It could even provoke China as Beijing might see a renewed U.S. nuclear presence as a threat aimed at its country.
The redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons would simply complicate the nuclear equation in the region. Diplomatic pressure and other multinational efforts at discussion are the only solutions to the North Korean nuclear conundrum no matter how frustrating it can prove to be.