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U.S. univ. article proposes sharing of 'nonstrategic' nukes with S. Korea, Japan

Defense 15:13 July 30, 2019

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. National Defense University (NDU) magazine has proposed that Washington strongly consider the "custodial" sharing of its nonstrategic nuclear capabilities with allies, like South Korea and Japan, in case of a crisis.

The proposal was made in an article, entitled "Twenty-First Century Nuclear Deterrence: Operationalizing the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review," in the July issue of the Pentagon-affiliated university's Joint Force Quarterly.

"The United States should strongly consider a potentially controversial new concept involving custodial sharing of nonstrategic nuclear capabilities during times of crisis with select Asia-Pacific partners, specifically Japan and the Republic of Korea," the article said.

"As with NATO, the United States would maintain ownership of these weapons, ensuring that the stipulations in the Non-Proliferation Treaty signatories remain in effect," it added, referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The article also said that the proposed sharing of the nonstrategic arms would have an added deterrent effect on Pyongyang, but "the greatest advantage would be the increased pressure put on China" to constrain North Korea's aggression."

The nonstrategic nuclear capabilities apparently refer to tactical weapons, which are short-range weapons designed to impact a limited battle zone, while strategic nuclear arms mean those with greater explosive power and longer ranges to obliterate an adversary's will to fight.

The idea of Seoul seeking to share the control of U.S. nuclear arms -- in a way that Washington has done with some NATO allies -- had repeatedly surfaced in Korea when the North's nuclear threats surged with its underground atomic tests and missile launches.

But many observers have argued that such an idea appeared a nonstarter given that it would undermine Seoul's long-held push for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and Washington's efforts to maintain the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

But the latest proposal from the NDU article came amid lackluster progress in ongoing diplomacy to denuclearize the North and foster a lasting peace regime on the peninsula.

The article was written by several U.S. military personnel, including Major Ryan W. Kort, plans officer at the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and Major Carlos R. Bersabe, strategic operations officer at the USSTRATCOM.

In recent years, the U.S. has been seen seeking to enhance its nuclear force.

Its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review mentioned the development of new weapons such as "low-yield" nuclear warheads, which some observers said could lower the psychological threshold for the use of nuclear arms, but would send a stronger message of deterrence to potential adversaries.


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