South Korea, U.S. discussing redeployment of tactical nukes on peninsula

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South Korea, U.S. discussing redeployment of tactical nukes on peninsula

Bruce Klingner [HERITAGE FOUNDATION]

Bruce Klingner [HERITAGE FOUNDATION]

 
South Korea and the United States are discussing the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula, according to a former U.S. intelligence official.
 
Speaking at an online conference titled “Confronting Growing Threats from North Korea,” held by the America First Policy Institute (AFPI) on Monday, Heritage Foundation senior research fellow and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official Bruce Klingner said top officials from Washington and Seoul are discussing three options for dealing with the escalating North Korean military threat, one of which is the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to the South.
 
The other two options are a nuclear weapons sharing arrangement between the allies and Seoul’s development of its own independent nuclear deterrent, according to Klingner.
 
The conference was also attended by Anthony Ruggiero, the senior director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
 
In his remarks, Klingner noted that he heard many high-ranking South Korean officials and experts express doubt about Washington’s extended deterrence commitment to Seoul, adding that this doubt appeared to be the “dominant” opinion among South Koreans.
 
Although Klingner noted that U.S. officials have been proactive in their attempts to assuage South Korean concerns about the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence, he also said alternative options for strengthening Seoul's defense was being discussed at “very senior levels” of both governments.
 
Klingner expressed his personal opposition to the idea of redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula, saying their placement in the South would degrade U.S. strike capabilities.
 
Both Klingner and Ruggiero also expressed concern that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is currently neglecting the North Korean nuclear issue and urged Washington to apply stronger pressure on the North Korea.
 
Klingner also argued that the Biden administration should not offer incentives to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table or settle for nuclear disarmament that does not entail the regime’s complete denuclearization.
 
Ruggiero, who served as the White House National Security Council director for North Korea under Donald Trump, argued that the Biden administration should bolster both U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang while strengthening its deterrence posture.
 
Ruggiero claimed that North Korea is able to continue developing nuclear weapons and cooperate with Russia and Iran because it faces no new pressure from sanctions.  
 
He argued that the Biden administration should strengthen enforcement of existing sanctions to induce the North to return to talks, adding that North Korea should also be prevented from dispatching workers to China and the regime’s coal exports should be completely cut off.
 

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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