Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts

27 January 2023

The Dueling Nuclear Nightmares Behind the South Korean President’s Alarming Comments

STEPHEN HERZOG, LAUREN SUKIN

Earlier this month, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol set off alarms. In an off-the-cuff remark, he warned that Seoul might need to develop nuclear weapons—or demand redeployment of U.S. nuclear arms to the Korean Peninsula—to counter North Korean nuclear threats. In doing so, Yoon spotlighted a popular view once reserved for hawkish commentators, defense intellectuals, and former military officials. Keeping nuclear weapons out of South Korea will ultimately be a U.S. responsibility that requires addressing both the deteriorating security environment and the domestic drivers underlying Yoon’s statement.

NUCLEAR POPULISM

Yoon’s announcement should be popular at home. Polling from last year shows 71 percent of South Koreans believe their military should acquire the bomb. Surveys from previous years have shown similar numbers, but mainstream politicians have largely stayed away from advocating proliferation.

Stephen Herzog is a senior researcher in nuclear arms control at the Center for Security Studies of ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and an associate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Project on Managing the Atom.

Yoon’s nuclear rhetoric also made headlines during the 2022 presidential election, when a nuclear South Korea became a mainstay of his conservative People Power Party’s platform. During the campaign, Yoon called for South Korea to host U.S. nuclear weapons before he then backtracked, saying this could violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Now, rapidly increasing North Korean missile testing, a growing Chinese arsenal, and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have worsened Seoul’s security environment.

Is South Korea Considering Nuclear Weapons

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

In a rather surprising move, South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol publicly suggested the possibility of Seoul developing its own nuclear weapons in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea. He made the comment at an official policy briefing by South Korea’s foreign and defense ministries on January 11. He reportedly suggested that South Korea could pursue its own nuclear bomb if the United States fails to deploy nuclear weapons in order to address the North Korean nuclear threat, saying this “would not take long” given the “technological prowess” of the South.

According to another report, Yoon reportedly stated, “It’s possible that the problem gets worse and our country will introduce tactical nuclear weapons or build them on our own. If that’s the case, we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”

Yoon’s office fairly quickly clarified that South Korea had “no plans” to develop nuclear weapons. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby highlighted the Korean clarification and added that both Washington and Seoul are in the process of making “improvements in extended deterrence capabilities.” It is possible that Yoon’s statement was intended to get a fresh reiteration from the United States on its commitment to augment its efforts in beefing up the extended deterrence capabilities.

Such comments are demonstrative of the growing skepticism among U.S. allies on the credibility of U.S. security guarantees. Japan has also had such worries, and in fact there have been occasional comments from Japanese leaders that suggest that Japan is not entirely happy with its non-nuclear commitment.

26 January 2023

Is South Korea Considering Nuclear Weapons?

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

In a rather surprising move, South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol publicly suggested the possibility of Seoul developing its own nuclear weapons in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea. He made the comment at an official policy briefing by South Korea’s foreign and defense ministries on January 11. He reportedly suggested that South Korea could pursue its own nuclear bomb if the United States fails to deploy nuclear weapons in order to address the North Korean nuclear threat, saying this “would not take long” given the “technological prowess” of the South.

According to another report, Yoon reportedly stated, “It’s possible that the problem gets worse and our country will introduce tactical nuclear weapons or build them on our own. If that’s the case, we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”

Yoon’s office fairly quickly clarified that South Korea had “no plans” to develop nuclear weapons. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby highlighted the Korean clarification and added that both Washington and Seoul are in the process of making “improvements in extended deterrence capabilities.” It is possible that Yoon’s statement was intended to get a fresh reiteration from the United States on its commitment to augment its efforts in beefing up the extended deterrence capabilities.

Such comments are demonstrative of the growing skepticism among U.S. allies on the credibility of U.S. security guarantees. Japan has also had such worries, and in fact there have been occasional comments from Japanese leaders that suggest that Japan is not entirely happy with its non-nuclear commitment.

19 January 2023

“If the problem becomes more serious”: South Korea talks going nuclear

GABRIELA BERNAL

The political and security environment on the Korean Peninsula has changed dramatically over the past year, with tensions reaching new levels because of continuous confrontations between the two Koreas.

There are no signs yet of a de-escalation. In fact, things got even worse barely a few days into 2023.

On New Year’s Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the “exponential” expansion of his country’s nuclear arsenal and the development of a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile. In response, South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol hinted at the possibility for joint planning and military drills involving US nuclear assets. Washington, however, was quick to refute these claims, denying it was considering any joint nuclear drills with Seoul.

Just days later, Yoon went a step further, floating the possibility of scrapping the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement, which has helped prevent accidental military clashes along maritime and land borders between the two Koreas since its signing. Unlike its predecessor, which sought engagement with the North, the Yoon administration, newly-inaugurated in 2022, has been more than eager to very publicly align itself with the United States and follow Washington’s lead on many major issues, including on how to deal with North Korea.
North Korea will not take the first step in deescalating tensions. This move must come from the South.

Yoon seems committed to respond to the North with a power-for-power approach, despite the risks of escalation. He proved this again on 11 January, when he publicly expressed the possibility of South Korea acquiring nuclear weapons. Yoon warned his country could take the nuclear route if the security situation on the Korean Peninsula continues to worsen. This was a major move as it marked the first time that a South Korean leader has expressed the possibility for nuclear armament.

11 January 2023

Japan, South Korea Wonder: How Strong Is the US Nuclear Umbrella?

Takahashi Kosuke

There are growing concerns in both Japan and South Korea over the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence, or nuclear umbrella.

For one thing, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has given East Asian policymakers and publics a big reason to believe that, in order to avoid a nuclear war, the United States will not take direct military action against nuclear-armed nations such as Russia. It is well remembered that U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out the option of U.S. military intervention in the early stage of the Russian invasion in 2022. He repeatedly vowed not to send U.S. troops to Ukraine. This sharply contrasts with the Gulf War (1990–91), when then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait and the United States-led coalition directly fought against Iraq.

This reinforces Tokyo’s and Seoul’s suspicions that the U.S. nuclear umbrella may have some “holes” and fail to provide real protection against other nuclear-weapons states, including China and North Korea, as well.

For another thing, Japan and South Korea need an enhanced nuclear deterrent to be provided by the United States because their neighbors, Russia and North Korea, began to issue direct threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in 2022.

27 December 2022

South Koreans Have the World’s Most Negative Views of China. Why?

Richard Q. Turcsanyi and Esther E. Song

When asked about general views of China, 81 percent of South Korean respondents expressed negative or very negative sentiments. That is (substantially) more than in any of the 56 countries surveyed worldwide as part of the Sinophone Borderlands project. What makes South Koreans so negative about China? And what are the foreign policy implications?

Uniquely Negative on China

South Korea used to be known for its balancing act between its ally and security guarantor, the United States, and its leading economic partner and increasingly dominant neighbor, China. In the past, this was also visible at the public opinion level. According to Pew Research, in 2015, South Koreans were relatively positive about China, when only 37 percent of them held unfavorable views.

However, Korean attitudes toward China turned sharply negative over subsequent years. This is usually explained as a result of the tensions in bilateral relations surrounding the deployment of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system THAAD, which was announced in 2016.

26 December 2022

China Relations Key to Situation in North Korea

ISOZAKI Atsuhito

The Rodong Sinmun is obviously the organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea, but the October 24 issue of the newspaper was so peculiar that one might assume that it had been published by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The top of the front page showed a congratulatory message sent by Kim Jong Un to Xi Jinping upon the latter’s election as the Party’s General Secretary at the 20th Party Congress of the CCP. Reports about Kim’s activities usually appear above the fold on the front page of the newspaper, and congratulatory messages in themselves are not unusual, but Xi Jinping is the only foreign leader to have been given the qualifier “respected.”

Not only that, but the contents were high praise indeed. For instance: “Please accept my warmest congratulations to you … I am convinced that the CCP and the Chinese people would win shining victory in the new journey for maintaining and developing socialism with the Chinese characteristics and for building a comprehensively well-off modern socialist state under your leadership.” This contrasts with the cold congratulatory message sent to the Party Congress five years ago, when relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated considerably following North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests.

21 November 2022

An American strategy for the Indo-Pacific in an age of US-China competition

Richard C. Bush, Tanvi Madan, Mireya Solís, Jonathan Stromseth

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The United States is a leading Indo-Pacific power with an abiding interest in sustaining a strong alliance network and maintaining a free and open regional order that delivers peace, stability, and economic prosperity. The Indo-Pacific is a dynamic region experiencing a rewiring of the lines of security and economic cooperation, as minilateral networks continue to grow and mega trade agreements take hold. The most significant development in the Indo-Pacific is the emergence of China as a peer competitor to the United States. Chinese actions that undermine vital U.S. interests include the use of coercion — whether in the form of gray-zone tactics, political interference, economic pressure, or military force — to weaken the U.S. alliance system in Asia, press unilateral territorial claims, and settle international disputes with disregard to international law. China also seeks to undermine democratic resilience in the region and incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic of China, even though its people reject the terms offered.

To sustain U.S. interests and efforts in the Indo-Pacific, we offer three sets of recommendations:Deepening alliances, partnerships, and coalitions. The U.S. should deepen its security alliances, enhance minilateral cooperation initiatives such as the Quad, engage actively with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its individual members, including Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam; deepen relations with India; and redouble efforts to promote trilateral U.S.-Japan-Korea collaboration.

19 November 2022

The Implications of North Korea’s Shifting Deterrence Strategy

Rodger Baker & Scott Kardas

North Korea's strong response to recent U.S.-South Korean military exercises reflects a test of Pyongyang's new calibrated escalation capabilities, and may represent a lasting shift in North Korea's coercive strategy. As we noted in February, North Korea's recent focus on short-range conventional weapons systems will ''provide Pyongyang with more ways to manage its political and security needs by enabling North Korea to increase pressure on adversaries in ways far less likely to trigger a full-scale war.'' It appears North Korea is growing more confident in its ability to manage escalation, meaning Pyongyang will likely take more aggressive actions to dissuade South Korea-U.S. defense exercises and reshape its own security environment.

On Nov. 1, North Korea warned of ''more powerful follow-up measures'' in response to U.S.-South Korea Vigilant Storm exercises, a four-day joint air training exercise that kicked off on Oct. 31. The next day, Pyongyang launched several missiles from numerous locations — including one that landed south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the maritime border between the two Koreas — for the first time since North Korea began testing ballistic missiles in the 1980s. Pyongyang also fired roughly 100 artillery shells into the maritime buffer zone that was set up in 2018 as part of negotiations with Washington and Seoul. Less than two hours later, South Korean and U.S. aircraft responded by firing three air-to-surface missiles into the sea north of the NLL.

17 November 2022

An American strategy for the Indo-Pacific in an age of US-China competition

Richard C. Bush, Tanvi Madan, Mireya Solís, Jonathan Stromseth

The United States is a leading Indo-Pacific power with an abiding interest in sustaining a strong alliance network and maintaining a free and open regional order that delivers peace, stability, and economic prosperity. The Indo-Pacific is a dynamic region experiencing a rewiring of the lines of security and economic cooperation, as minilateral networks continue to grow and mega trade agreements take hold. The most significant development in the Indo-Pacific is the emergence of China as a peer competitor to the United States. Chinese actions that undermine vital U.S. interests include the use of coercion — whether in the form of gray-zone tactics, political interference, economic pressure, or military force — to weaken the U.S. alliance system in Asia, press unilateral territorial claims, and settle international disputes with disregard to international law. China also seeks to undermine democratic resilience in the region and incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic of China, even though its people reject the terms offered.

To sustain U.S. interests and efforts in the Indo-Pacific, we offer three sets of recommendations:Deepening alliances, partnerships, and coalitions. The U.S. should deepen its security alliances, enhance minilateral cooperation initiatives such as the Quad, engage actively with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its individual members, including Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam; deepen relations with India; and redouble efforts to promote trilateral U.S.-Japan-Korea collaboration.

10 November 2022

Does North Korea harbour air-launched cruise missile ambitions?

Joseph Dempsey

North Korea is already adding ground-launched land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) to complement its ballistic missile inventory, but could it also be pursuing an air-launched LACM capability? Recent statements from Pyongyang at least raise this possibility as the country attempts to improve and expand its air-launched weapon inventory.

State-controlled media reported on live-fire exercises involving the North Korean Air Force held in early October. According to the coverage, the exercises included attacks on a simulated enemy base using ‘air-to-surface medium-range guided-bombs and cruise missiles’. In the past, neither of these classes of weapons have been officially associated with air force aircraft. The report added that another exercise, conducted shortly after, involved the successful testing of ‘new-type air weapon systems’.

There are several existing North Korean systems that could fit the ‘cruise missile’ description, making them potential candidates for development into an air-launched version, though they have very different performance characteristics and dimensions. Among these is the Kumsong-3 (KN-SS-N-02 Stormpetrel) surface-launched medium range anti-ship missile which may already have been the focus of attempts to develop an air-launched variant. Alternatively, the new weapon could be a variant of a previously seen, and much larger and longer-range, ground-launched land-attack cruise missile. Two long-range cruise missile designs were shown at a North Korean weapons exhibition in October 2021. Pyongyang has claimed that both these missiles have been successfully tested.

5 November 2022

China and Russia prepare to turn Cold War II into a hot war

JOSEPH BOSCO

In 2011, James Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that both Russia and China posed “the greatest mortal threat” to the United States because of their nuclear capabilities.

Though he also said neither then evinced an intent to use those capabilities against the United States, several Democratic senators expressed alarm at Clapper’s threat characterization and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said he should resign.

Obama’s policies were closely aligned with the committee members’ more relaxed view of the two countries’ relations with the United States. The Trump and Biden foreign policy teams, on the other hand, have shared the increasingly dire assessment of both China and Russia.

Last week, the Biden administration’s Defense Department released its National Defense Strategy (NDS), delayed by the war in Ukraine, along with the companion Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Missile Defense Review (MDR). Like the earlier National Security Strategy (NSS), the documents place China at the top of the list of security threats facing the United States, with Russia as a close second.

1 November 2022

2022 National Defense Strategy: Implications for China and the Indo-Pacific


Seth G. Jones: Welcome, and thank you for joining us. We’re here to discuss the recently released National Defense Strategy by the U.S. Department of Defense, in particular focusing on the implications for the Indo-Pacific, including countries like China and North Korea.

My name is Seth Jones. I’m the senior vice president and director of the International Security Program. I have with me an all-star cast. I have to my right, Dr. Victor Cha, who is senior vice president for Asia and Korea Chair and a prolific author and former U.S. government official. I have Kari Bingen to my left, who is the director of the Aerospace Security Project and senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And then I have Christopher Johnstone, who’s senior adviser and Japan Chair and recently left the National Security Council of the Biden administration. Thanks to all of you for joining us here today.

Well, Chris, let me start with you. For any American that is wondering about the focus of the National Defense Strategy, it’s pretty straightforward. The most significant threat, the pacing challenge, as the document calls it, is China.

The New U.S. National Defense Strategy for 2022

Anthony H. Cordesman

The U.S. Department of Defense has just issued an unclassified National Defense Strategy for 2022. A copy of the full text is attached as a download at the end of this commentary. In general, it highlights the past U.S. emphasis on the Russian and Chinese threats and lesser threats from states like Iran and North Korea, and it does provide more details about future plans than most of the Quadrennial Defense Reviews and other National Defense Strategy documents the United States has issued over the last two decades. It also includes some broad sections on future priorities and force planning that provide a broad perspective on how the United States is seeking to shape and improve its military capabilities, although they again only discuss very general goals.

Like its predecessors, it does not describe anything approaching a full U.S. strategy. The is no meaningful content describing future goals for defense spending, no clear definition of how it will actually develop an integrated strategy, little discussion of any major new programs, and no discussion of future force plans. Equally important, there are no meaningful net assessments of key threats like Russia and China and no specific plans to improve U.S. strategic partnerships.

At the same time, many of the broad policy statements in the new strategy are positive, making it clear that the United States intends to work closely with its strategic partners and allies, and are specific enough to reassure our partners and friendly states. There is no focus on shifting the burden to allied states, the weakening of existing U.S. commitments, or focus on Asia to the exclusion of other regions. It is also clear that the United States will keep making major advances in military technology and in joint warfare.

23 October 2022

The Not-So Secret Cyber War: 5 Nations Conducting the Most Cyberattacks

Peter Suciu

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but cyber vigilance is something that should be practiced year-round. Unfortunately, the threat vector continues to get worse, and hacking is now a domain where a not-so-secret war is being waged. A question remains, however, as to what nations are actively engaged – but also where some of those states manage to train their cyber teams to conduct these hacks.

“Most of our enemies offer free university education to their citizens,” warned John Gunn, CEO of cybersecurity provider Token.

There is also evidence to suggest that China and Russia, in particular, have cyber training programs in place.

“China has a vast National Cybersecurity Centre in Wuhan, which reportedly spans over 15 square miles, which is assumed to train the next generation of threat actors,” explained Yana Blachman, threat intelligence specialist at Venafi.

19 October 2022

Ukraine and the Consequences for Nuclear Deterrence

Jonathan Eyal and Dr Matthew Harries

JE: Indirect but obvious threats from Russian politicians, suggesting that their country may be forced to use nuclear weapons if its territory – as defined by Moscow – is threatened, have multiplied in the past few weeks. Are you surprised by the emergence of these threats?

MH: No. Unfortunately, Putin’s war on Ukraine has had a nuclear element from the start; in unleashing the war, Putin made indirect nuclear threats. So, nuclear deterrence has been operating in the background of this conflict from the beginning, and it has to an extent been working on NATO. One of the reasons that the US and NATO allies don’t want a direct conflict with Russia – but not the only reason – is because at the end of the escalation ladder between Russia and the West is the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.

Likewise, the nuclear threat has been operating for Russia as well: the leadership in Moscow know perfectly well that the US, the UK, France and NATO as an alliance are nuclear-armed. And they know that, just as we need to take Russian nuclear weapons seriously, Russia needs to take Western nuclear weapons seriously. So, the conflict has been limited in scope partly – but certainly not only – because of the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides. The corollary is that it is possible that the suffering and the punishment that Ukraine has had to absorb from this Russian aggression is more significant because of the existence of nuclear weapons and the existential fear of what an unrestrained war between the West and Russia would bring.

18 October 2022

DECODED: Why US-Led “Chip 4” Countries Are In ‘Hum & Haw’ To Hurt China’s Booming Semiconductor Industry

Prakash Nanda

With the tardy progress of the so-called “Chip 4 Alliance” comprising the US, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to produce “Democratic Chips” and stop China from disrupting the global semiconductor supply chain, the Biden Administration seems to have decided to act alone, hoping others will follow.

Last week, it envisaged new controls on semiconductor sales to China, which, if successful, could disrupt China’s military by blocking access to memory chips and chip-making equipment crucial to modern defense systems like stealth aircraft, satellites, and cruise missiles.

These controls also tightened rules on selling semiconductor manufacturing equipment to companies that produce advanced logic chips in China. In the process, these controls could adversely affect hundreds of Chinese-American tech executives working for American tech companies in China by forcing them to choose between their citizenship and their job.

The new rules bar “US persons, including US citizens and permanent residents, from supporting the “development or production” of advanced chips at Chinese factories without a license.

17 October 2022

North Korea Tests Long-Range Strategic Cruise Missile

Mitch Shin

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), one of North Korea’s main state-controlled media outlets, reported on Thursday that the country had test-fired two long-range strategic cruise missiles.

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of the North, guided the test-launch on Wednesday, KCNA reported. It also reported that the missiles successfully hit the target 2,000 kilometers away in the western waters of the country and proved “the correctness, technical advantages and actual war efficiency of the overall weapon system.”

The South Korean military did not release a public alert about the North’s test on Wednesday, and the U.S. and Japanese militaries also have not released any statement on this test yet. North Korean cruise missile launches, unlike its ballistic missile launches, are not a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

16 October 2022

How Likely Is Nuclear War? Expert Explains Threat of Russia, North Korea

Virginia Allen 

Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. How serious are those threats? Is the United States prepared to respond in the face of a nuclear attack? And what role do China and North Korea play in the discussion of nuclear war?

“We’ve been hearing threat after threat, nuclear threat after nuclear threat against Ukraine,” Patty-Jane Geller, a Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst in nuclear deterrence and missile defense, says.

“Is the threat likely? Probably not. I don’t see how using a nuclear weapon against Ukraine would really help [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and help his war aims. The Ukrainians aren’t going to surrender. But that doesn’t mean that the chances that he’ll use a nuclear weapon are zero, either,” she says.

Geller joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain the true threat of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, and why North Korea is testing its missile capabilities.

8 October 2022

Looking Past China’s Rise for the Trends Shaping Asia


Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has begun to more aggressively challenge America’s role as the key economic and political power in Asia. Increasingly repressive at home, Xi has not shied away from asserting China’s regional influence, positioning Beijing as the powerbroker on everything from trade routes to territorial disputes. And with its Belt and Road Initiative, China’s influence is spreading well beyond Asia, into much of Africa and even Europe. China’s ascendance is also evident in how much attention other global powers are paying to Beijing and its policies.

But while China’s rise often makes headlines, it is not the only trend shaping events in Asia. Illiberalism has become a force in democracies like India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ridden the wave of Hindu nationalism to successive electoral victories. And in the Philippines, former President Rodrigo Duterte’s six years in office have undermined the country’s democratic institutions and rule of law, with the prospects dim that his newly inaugurated successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., will be an improvement. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s already faltering process of democratization came to an abrupt end in February 2021, when the military seized power from the democratically elected government. The subsequent protests and the military’s violent crackdown in response have left the country teetering on the edge of civil war and failed state status.