Public opinion polling in South Korea over the last decade has consistently demonstrated majority support both for an indigenous nuclear weapons effort and the return of US tactical nuclear weapons, which Washington withdrew in 1991. In two recent polls conducted in the wake of the North Korean test, 64 percent and 66 percent of those surveyed agreed that South Korea should possess its own nuclear weapons.
If South Korea goes nuclear, and every Nork threat makes that more likely, Japan’s road to the bomb will get shorter. Thus, the Obama administration has to juggle efforts to pacify the region and avoid provoking the Norks even as it tries to reassure South Korea and Japan that Washington actually does have their back and that they can safely outsource their nuclear deterrence to us. And, needless to say, we have to do all this while keeping communication channels open with China.This isn’t easy, and it’s getting harder over time.[Nuclear image courtesy of Shutterstock]