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PacNet #13 – South Korea’s Strengthened Deterrence against Nuclear North

Following North Korea’s third nuclear test, national polls in South Korea found over 60 percent of those surveyed said that the ROK needs its own nuclear weapons. As North Korea moves closer to fielding nuclear weapons, many in South Korea rightly view that the country’s national security strategy of deterring the North by maintaining a smaller yet qualitatively superior conventional military force dependent upon support from the United States is no longer sufficient. The US extended deterrent was even referred to as "an umbrella with holes." Doubts about the strength of South Korea’s deterrent and the US commitment to fully carry out its alliance obligations should not be dismissed as unfounded fears triggered by North Korean provocations. Rather, steps to address the increasing gap in the strategic military balance between the two Koreas must be taken.