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Why South Korea must see going nuclear as a non-starter

However, Yoon hinted at the country’s high level of nuclear latency, saying that “it would not take long to develop nuclear weapons if the country put its mind to it”. In doing so, he gave form to an issue gaining prominence.

A possible change of administration in this year’s US presidential election is also a cause for concern. In an analysis for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Korea chair Victor Cha and associate fellow Andy Lim argue that victory for Donald Trump could result in a decrease in North Korean provocations but could also lead to an increase in South Korean support for acquiring its own nuclear weapons.


Seoul Mayor says South Korea should build nuclear weapons in the face of threats from the North

While concerns and anxieties have made nuclear proliferation seem like a viable route, the feasibility of South Korea pursuing the nuclear option appears to have avoided rigorous scrutiny. Given the complex security dynamics of Northeast Asia, the road to acquiring nuclear weapons would be a rocky one.

Sanctions could follow, which would have a disastrous effect on the export-led South Korean economy. It is also possible that the US could withdraw its nuclear umbrella. Such a move, in the absence of a credible indigenous nuclear deterrent, would jeopardise South Korea’s security.

Yoon is aware of the potential consequences of Seoul’s nuclear armament. His statement indicated the lack of feasibility in acquiring nuclear weapons at present because of the backlash the country could face. His comments must then be understood as a way of signalling to both North Korea and the US with regard to the current developments on the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang’s growing belligerence has made securing