The issue of redeploying tactical nuclear weapons back to the Korean Peninsula is currently a moot issue in South Korea. It’s advocated for by an extremely small number of conservative politicians and academics.
But it still tends to pop up once in a while – now, on this side of the Pacific.
On May 16, the House approved the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) by a vote of 299 to 120. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) offered an amendment that would require the Pentagon to study the potential of redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and additional conventional weapons in East Asia as a deterrent against North Korea. The amendment was approved by 32-26. However, the study is highly unlikely to gain traction in the Senate, and the Republican move is largely seen by nuclear weapons watchers as a political ploy in a presidential election year.
In response, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) also offered an amendment on the House floor arguing that the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea would destabilize the region and would not be in Washington’s national security interest. The Republican-controlled House voted it down 160-261.
On May 14, the State Department made it clear in a press briefing that Washington has no plans to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons:
“Our policy remains support for a nonnuclear Korean Peninsula, so we don’t have any plans to change that policy… Tactical nuclear weapons, in our view, are unnecessary for the defense of South Korea. So we don’t have any plans or intentions to deploy them there.” (State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, May 14)
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak recently made it clear yet again in a June 13th interview that Seoul is not interested in tactical nuclear weapons:
“We are not considering it at all. We can’t think of that at a time when we are trying to denuclearize North Korea. The current goal is to move toward a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula through North Korea’s denuclearization.” (S. Korean President Lee Myung-bak, June 13)
Click here for more information and analysis of the issue including key arguments on both sides of the aisle.