The Current

Nuclear weapons for South Korea may be 'only answer': political expert

The increasing nuclear threat from North Korea is making it evident to some that South Korea and Japan need to rethink their place in the military world.
U.S. President Donald Trump with South Korea's President Moon Jae-In (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R). Trump tweeted Sept. 5 that he is allowing both Japan and South Korea to 'buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.' (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

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There's no mistaking U.S. anger over North Korea's brazen test launch of a powerful nuclear weapon.

"[Kim Jong-un's] abusive use of missiles, and his nuclear threats, show he is begging for war," U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the United Nations.

And North Korea's Ambassador to the United Nations, Han Tae Song had a chilling message for the U.S. this past weekend, referring to his country's nuclear test as a "gift package."

That bomb is said to be eight times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in Second World War.

It's all complicated by growing fears in both South Korea and Japan that their current arrangements for nuclear protection from the U.S. may not be reliable.

Are we about to see a new nuclear arms race in northeast Asia?

Some are suggesting South Korea to go nuclear — and arm themselves in the face of a rogue, nuclear North Korea. 

"Nuclear weapons for the South might be the only answer," says Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
North Korea released a photograph, Sept. 3, of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, centre, inspecting what is said to be a hydrogen bomb. That same day, they carried out its sixth nuclear test. (KCNA via Reuters)

Bandow believes that the U.S. may not be willing to protect South Korea against a nuclear attack.  

"The South Koreans themselves have to look at the current situation and realize they have to do more military because they are vulnerable to American decision-making.  They are a bit player in this politically,  even though they have much more at stake," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

U.S. protecting South Korea

The U.S. may want to rethink protecting South Korea, according to Michael Auslin with the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

"They're going to look at the size of the South Korean economy and say, 'Look, it's a $1.3 trillion economy. It's the 11th largest economy in the world. Why should we be offering an extended deterrence ... to that economy?"

When the U.S. gave security guarantees during the Cold War, back in the 1950s, and '60s, it was a different time, says Auslin.

"It was when we faced an ideological threat, an existential political threat, and we don't face that with North Korea."

"Pyongyang is not Moscow."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin, Idella Sturino and Ines Colabrese.