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Polling Shows Nuclear Arms Race More Likely In Asia

REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear provocations have caused a spike in the number of supporters of South Korean nuclear armament.

Gallup Korea polled over 1,000 South Koreans last month and determined that 58 percent favored nuclear armament to counter growing threats from the country’s aggressive northern neighbor, revealed the Yonhap News Agency. Another poll from South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) put the percentage of nuke supporters at 65.1 percent.

North Korea conducted a simultaneously launched three ballistic missiles on Sept. 5. The test was immediately followed by the country’s fifth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 9.

After North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test in January, 54 percent of South Korean people surveyed favored an independent nuclear defense strategy.

“Some in [South Korea] and Japan are losing faith in the U.S. nuclear umbrella and are upset by the U.S. failure to constrain DPRK nuclear developments, leading them to call for independent nuclear arsenals,” RAND Corporation argued earlier this month.

Calls for a nuclear-armed South Korea are becoming more frequent among both average citizens and South Korean officials.

“In order to protect peace, we also need to consider all measures to deter North Korea’s provocations, including nuclear armament for the purpose of self-defense,” Won Yoo-chul, a senior lawmaker, said.

“We need to consider every option, including deploying tactical nuclear weapons, developing our own nukes, striking North Korea’s related facilities, and demolishing Kim Jong-un’s regime,” Rep. Lee Cheol-woo explained during a National Assembly meeting.

Support for South Korea’s nuclear armament is also on the rise among social media users.

Were South Korea to pursue nuclear weapons, it could reportedly do so fairly quickly. “South Korea has sufficient financial and technological capabilities to build up a nuclear deterrence if it wants to,” Suh Kune-yull, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, told Yonhap reporters.

“We have more advanced nuclear-generation technologies compared with Britain, Russia and China,” Suh said. “Within only two years, we are capable of making our own weapons that can easily surpass anything the North can have.”

Were South Korea to pursue an independent nuclear weapons program, it is possible that Japan would follow suit, triggering a nuclear arms race that would severely destabilize the region.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her administration, in line with U.S. attitudes, firmly reject the possibility of nuclear armament. Tactical nuclear weapons were removed from the Korean Peninsula in 1991 in order to convince North Korea to abandon its weapons program. As the North is still producing nuclear weapons, some in South Korea believe that it is time to bring nuclear weapons back. The U.S. special representative for North Korea policy stated in mid-September that this policy would not change. Park has also reaffirmed her commitment to a nuke-free South Korea.

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