Avoiding Pacific Proliferation

North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and China’s increased conventional capabilities could spur South Korea and Japan to seek nuclear weapons, according to a new report released by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. While outlining the report Tuesday, author Evan Montgomery said South Korean and Japanese policy makers might begin to doubt whether the United States would employ nuclear weapons on their behalf if North Korea is able to withstand an attack and respond with a nuclear attack or has the capability of striking US territory. And if Japan or the United States isn’t able to deter China’s conventional capabilities with their own, the island nation might conclude “a small nuclear arsenal is the best the way to offset their declining military position,” he said. Instead, Montgomery proposed the United States create nuclear planning groups and sharing arrangement—similar to what is already in place in Europe—with its allies in the Asia-Pacific to allay fears. The arrangement, though a departure from current US policy, “might be preferable to watching two of its closest allies develop and field independent nuclear weapons,” the report notes. “In that scenario, the United States would have no control over these weapons, including when and how they might be used.”