No U.S. Nukes in South Korea

North Korea mistakenly believes there are U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun reportedly has issued a statement saying the U.S. has 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea. In this regional war of rhetoric it is important to at least get one fact right: The United States does not have nuclear weapons in South Korea. It used to – at some point close to 1,000 – but the last were withdrawn in 1991.

The only nuclear weapons the United States has in the Pacific today are the hundreds of warheads deployed on Trident II D5 sea-launched ballistic missiles on board eight Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarines patrolling in the Pacific Ocean. Some of them may be earmarked for potential use against targets in North Korea. Other weapons for bombers could be moved into the region if necessary, but they’re not today.

The North Korean obsession with the U.S. nuclear “threat” might be seen as confirmation that the nuclear deterrent works and hopefully will deter North Korea from attacking anyone. But the flip side of the coin is to what extent the U.S. nuclear posture in the Pacific – past and present – helps feed the North Korean nuclear rhetoric and perhaps even ambitions.

Additional information: A history of U.S. nuclear weapons deployment to and withdrawal from South Korea.


2 Responses to “No U.S. Nukes in South Korea”

  1. captainjohann June 17, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    Sir, North Korea is just using USA as scare crow to enhance its security from aggression by China. US misread Sino/Soviet conflicts in 1960. It also could not anticipate Chinese invasion of Vietnam. Now also it is misreading North Korea. Unless US addresses security concerns of North Korea with regard to nuclear armed China, the talks and also sanctions will fail.

    Reply: North Korean fear of a Chinese nuclear attack? That one I haven’t heard before. What is the evidence of that? HK

  2. Iain Chan June 27, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    I’m thinking that maybe the DPRK leadership fears that China may initiate a regime change in the country via a coup. The Chinese is very interested in keeping Japan away from modifying its constitution and rearming its military, and they wouldn’t mind getting rid of an ‘unruly’ ally in order to serve their own political interests. However when nuclear weapons and radioactive material are thrown about by the North Koreans the situation becomes infinitely more dangerous, in terms of possible retaliation by loyalists. Kim Jong-Il is a master in political survival and he knows what he’s doing.

    Everyone knows that US military influence is fading away in the region because of strains in OIF and Afghanistan, and this means that it’s now a straight fight between China and Japan for regional political dominance. Also Japan is a long time ‘informal’ ally of Taiwan, as these 2 countries have political and economic ties stretching back for decades from around WW2 when Taiwan was a Japanese Protectorate.

    The Chinese fears that continuing events in DPRK will spur the far right factions in the Japanese LDP to election victory and rearmament. A more aggressive posture may see Japanese warships trying to provoke hostilities or even strike pre-emptively against the country, as they don’t really care what happens in South Korea. If that happens China would have one truly massive problem.

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