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US senator floats redeployment of tactical nuclear arms to Korea to strengthen deterrence

By Yonhap

Published : May 30, 2024 - 09:22

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Military helicopters at Camp Humphreys, a major US military base in Pyeongtaek, 65 kilometers south of sSeoul on May 21, 2024 (Yonhap) Military helicopters at Camp Humphreys, a major US military base in Pyeongtaek, 65 kilometers south of sSeoul on May 21, 2024 (Yonhap)

A ranking member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday proposed the idea of redeploying US tactical nuclear arms to South Korea to beef up deterrence, noting the absence of any immediate diplomatic solution to North Korea's nuclear quandary.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) made the proposal in a report, titled "21st Century Peace Through Strength: A Generational Investment in the US Military," in which he stressed Pyongyang continues to "outpace expectations" about its nuclear and missile programs with capabilities to target the continental United States.

"Because there is no immediate diplomatic solution in sight, the United States must ensure that deterrence does not erode on the Korean Peninsula," the senator said in the report.

"That means maintaining readiness with regular US-Republic of Korea military exercises, keeping a persistent US military presence on the Korean Peninsula and exploring new options -- such as nuclear-sharing agreements in the Indo-Pacific and redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula -- to bolster deterrence on the Korean Peninsula," he added.

His proposal comes amid lingering claims in South Korea that Seoul should consider stronger security measures, including its own nuclear armament or the redeployment of US tactical nuclear arms as Pyongyang has been doubling down on its nuclear and missile programs.

To help quell such claims, Seoul and Washington launched the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), a body to discuss strategic and nuclear planning issues, last year. Under the NCG framework, the allies have been working on establishing planning and operational guidelines for a shared nuclear strategy.

Stressing the need for "substantive" adjustments to the US force posture and structure in response to what he termed the "nuclear expansion" by China and Russia, the senator called for discussions with South Korea, Japan and Australia to gauge their willingness to engage in a "nuclear-burden sharing arrangement" with the US similar to those existing with allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He was apparently referring to a cooperation framework with US allies to address regional nuclear threats.

Wicker pointed out that the security challenge from Pyongyang has become more complicated, particularly because of its strategic alignment with Moscow and Beijing,

"Recognizing that diplomacy with the United States is unlikely to yield meaningful outcomes, (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un has recently shifted to a 'wartime footing.' In addition, international sanctions -- which previously crippled the North Korean economy -- are now ineffective because Russia and China refuse to implement them," he wrote.

"Further, North Korea's strategic alignment with Russia and China provide Pyongyang with a steady source of revenue, as North Korea now becomes a source of global instability well beyond the Korean Peninsula."

In the report, the senator called for the US to increase its defense budget by $55 billion to $950 billion in the fiscal year 2025 so as to increase investment in the US military. (Yonhap)