South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ruled out the idea of his nation either developing its own nuclear weapons arsenal, or playing host to American tactical weapons. He said he didn’t want to see such a move because it would fuel an arms race in northeast Asia.
President Moon’s resistance is in keeping with his long-standing support for diplomacy and trying to reduce tensions with North Korea. At the same time, popular sentiment in South Korea seems to be swaying the other way.
A recent poll showed some 60% of South Koreans support the idea of developing a nuclear arsenal, while other top politicians are arguing Moon to “get tough” with the North. US officials continue to talk escalation, with deployments of tactical nuclear weapons constantly part of the conversation.
While Moon is likely correct that falling into this trap would fuel an arms race, it’s going to be a continuing struggle for him to resist the pressure to go nuclear as tensions continue to rise, and as his calls for diplomacy continue to get brushed aside.