Report Recommends Modernization of 100 U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons to Support South Korea’s Security

SEOUL — A research report released on Monday recommends that South Korea and the United States should modernize approximately 100 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to support South Korea against the escalating threats from North Korea.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the report underlines that North Korea has "already established a nuclear weapon force" that poses a significant threat to South Korea and is "on the verge" of being a serious threat to the U.S. The report, titled "Options for Strengthening ROK Nuclear Assurance," states that Kim Jong-un appears to be planning a force of at least 300 to 500 nuclear weapons, potentially reaching the 300-weapon threshold by 2030.

A hypothetical North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul could result in nearly 2 million fatalities and serious injuries, based on the power demonstrated in North Korea's sixth nuclear test, according to the report. The North aims to use its nuclear capability to intimidate the U.S., break the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and "dominate South Korea without having to invade it," the study added.

The report suggests that the modernization of about 100 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons could be financed by South Korea. These weapons would be stored in the U.S. but could be quickly deployed to South Korea in case of necessity. Additionally, the report outlines a four-step sequential process to commit U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea, including building new U.S. tactical nuclear weapon storage facilities in the country.

If the recommendation is implemented as described, "this option could commit up to about 180 U.S. nuclear weapons to ROK security in the next few years," the report said. It also mentioned that "perhaps eight to 12 B61 nuclear bombs could be deployed in the ROK for both symbolic and operational purposes."

The report noted that confidence in the U.S. nuclear umbrella has waned in South Korea due to the ambiguous commitment from the United States, resulting in increasing calls for Seoul to develop its own nuclear weapons. While the Washington Declaration between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden aimed to strengthen extended deterrence, it "lacks the implementation details that are needed to truly increase ROK nuclear assurance," the report concluded.

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