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25 Apr, 2023 12:42

Washington should redeploy nukes to South Korea – Bolton

The United States housed nuclear weapons in the East Asian nation between 1958 and 1991
Washington should redeploy nukes to South Korea – Bolton

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton has called for the US to redeploy nuclear weapons to South Korea, a move which he said would help protect the security of Washington’s key Asian ally.

“Having tactical nuclear weapons back on the peninsula would be clear evidence of our resolve and determination to deter North Korea,” Bolton told Reuters on the sidelines of a forum at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul on Tuesday. Bolton has cultivated a reputation for hawkish foreign policy stances throughout a decades-long career in Washington.

Bolton’s comments came as South Korean President Yoon Suk traveled to Washington on Monday ahead of a summit with President Joe Biden, where the topic of the United States’ “extended deterrence” of North Korea’s nuclear program is expected to be tabled.

Pyongyang has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in recent months, with launches on March 14 perceived by Washington and Seoul as a protest against the announcement of the largest joint military drills undertaken by the two allies in five years, just days prior. North Korea has insisted that its weapons-testing program is defensive in nature, and necessary in the face of US threats.

In March, some members of Yoon’s conservative People Power Party called for Seoul to develop its own nuclear weapons program, in spite of potential international repercussions for violating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. According to Bolton, the US placing armaments in South Korea would provide everyone with some breathing room.

“Redeploying the tactical [nuclear] weapons does not preclude South Korea from getting its own capability,” Bolton explained. “But it may give us some time to think about whether we really want to do that.”

Bolton added that a “structure of collective self-defense in East Asia and the Indo-Pacific” could be a solution to regional disputes. “The more people can look at their mutual interests not simply on the nuclear side but against the threat of states like China and South Korea, the safer we all are,” he claimed.

Ahead of his successful election campaign in 2022, Yoon had signaled that he would consider asking Washington to place nuclear weapons in the country. He has since distanced himself from those remarks, while his Defense Minister, Lee Jong-sup, has said that no such plans are in place.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, has condemned the “irresponsible actions of the United States and South Korea” which its foreign ministry said last month was increasing “the risk of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.”

The US stationed nuclear weapons in South Korea in 1958 but withdrew them in 1991.