Deputy Vice President, Nuclear Materials Security
Eric Brewer on “South Korea’s Nuclear Flirtations”
Eric Brewer, deputy vice president for NTI’s Nuclear Materials Security Program, co-authored a piece for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace titled “South Korea’s Nuclear Flirtations Highlight the Growing Risks of Allied Proliferation.” Brewer and his co-author, Toby Dalton, discuss the implications of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s January 2023 comments about the possibly that South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons.
“Yoon’s comments may simply be the leading edge of a trend in nuclear flirtations by U.S. allies and partners,” they write. “An increasing proliferation risk comes from U.S. allies and partners worried about their security and the credibility of U.S. commitments to their defense.”
Brewer and Dalton explain that allied threat perceptions are evolving in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s military build-up and aggressive posturing, and North Korea’s nuclear expansion. These developments are influencing South Korean politics and contributing to domestic support for nuclear weapons.
As a result, Brewer and Dalton argue that “the United States must craft new approaches to managing allies’ security in return for their continued promise not to seek nuclear weapons.” This includes “building out a military concept of tighter integration between stronger allied conventional military capabilities alongside U.S. conventional and nuclear capabilities to align threat perceptions and better deal with probable escalation scenarios.”
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