Republic of Korea

Extended Nuclear Deterrence – Republic of Korea

Government sources

The 38th Security Consultative Meeting Joint Communiqué, October 20, 2006, Washington D.C.

Secretary Rumsfeld offered assurances of firm U.S. commitment and immediate support to the ROK, including continuation of the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty.


Extended nuclear deterrence, Global Abolition and Korea, Peter Hayes, Austral Special Report 09-06S, 10 December 2009 [PDF, 277 Kb]

The path not taken, the way still open: Denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia, Peter Hayes and Michael Hamel-Green, Austral Special Report 09-09S, 14 December 2009 [PDF, 348 Kb]

The US Nuclear Umbrella Over South Korea, Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists

The 2006 reaffirmation appeared in the third paragraph of the communiqué, four paragraphs up from the 2005 statement, and was made in the context of the North Korea test on October 9. The statement explicitly mentioned “extended deterrence,” rather than the more ambiguous “provisions of the nuclear umbrella” term used in the 2005 communiqué. Presumably, the intension has been to make the reaffirmation more a little more explicit given the new circumstances. One audience for this statement is South Korea, in an apparent attempt to reassure Seoul and thwart any thoughts about a need to develop nuclear weapons. This message is also intended for other non-nuclear countries, including Japan, that there are real security benefits from abstaining from developing nuclear weapons and adhering to the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Another audience is North Korea, making it a little clearer than before that any aggressive moves by them against the South could, potentially, trigger a nuclear response from the United States. This message is also intended to other potential nuclear proliferators such as Iran.

General Leon LaPorte, the commander of U.S. Forces in South Korea, told reporters prior to the 37th Security Consultative Meeting discussions included whether to soften the U.S. nuclear umbrella. According to several press reports, LaPorte said the language on the nuclear pledge was the subject of last minute talks between Rumsfeld’s policy team and the South Korea defense ministry. “I think that’s being discussed right now between OSD policy and MND policy. So that’ll get worked out here I think in the next two hours,” LaPorte told reporters traveling with Secretary Rumsfeld.

Re-Aligning the Military and Political Dimensions Of the ROK-US Alliance: The Possibilities“, Patrick Morgan, International Journal of Korean Studies, Fall 2007, Vol. XI, No. 2

USFK Chief Pledges Shield Against NK Missiles, Jung Sung-ki, Korea Times, 29 June 2009

The United States will use its missile defense network to defend South Korea against incoming missiles from North Korea under an extended deterrence pledge in case of an emergency, the chief of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said. Gen. Walter Sharp, who concurrently serves as commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the United Nations Command (UNC), said the extended deterrence recently reaffirmed by U.S. President Barack Obama during a summit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington, D.C. would include the provision of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea against North Korea, reinforcement of troops on the Korean Peninsula and the missile defense scheme, the officials said.

US Nuclear Umbrella: Double-Edged Sword for S. Korea, Jung Sung-ki, Korea Times, 24 June 2009

Amid growing concern about North Korea’s high-stake nuclear gamesmanship, the United State has vowed to provide an “extended” nuclear umbrella to South Korea, where no tactical nuclear weapons are present. Proponents say the U.S. commitment to providing extended nuclear deterrence capabilities will help prevent the North from “miscalculating” that it would gain anything from missile and nuclear tests. Opponents argue the U.S. nuclear deterrence pledge could only provoke the communist North and send the wrong message that Pyongyang is a recognized nuclear state. “The U.S. extended deterrence means a stronger and broader defense against the North’s chemical, biological and missile attacks as well as nuclear attacks. So this is huge step in the joint defense of South Korea and the United States against North Korea,” a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) said. “But there is concern, at the same time, that talking too much of the nuclear umbrella would give North Korea a good excuse to claim itself to be a nuclear power,” the researcher said.

At the June 16 summit in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed that the United States would provide an “extended nuclear umbrella” to South Korea in response to increasing nuclear threats from North Korea. Pyongyang conducted a second nuclear test last month and test-fired several short-range missiles, defying calls by the international community to give up its nuclear ambitions. This was the first time for a U.S. leader to clarify at a summit coverage of South Korea under its nuclear umbrella. The U.S. government has promised since 1978 that it will provide necessary nuclear deterrence capabilities for South Korea against North Korea in the annual South Korea-U.S. defense ministers’ meetings, but the issue had not been discussed at a summit level.

Some conservatives argue the government should ask the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to re-deploy its tactical nuclear weapons to deter nuclear-armed North Korea. Tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) typically refer to short-range weapons, including land-based missiles with a range of up to 500 kilometers and air- and sea-launched weapons with a range of around 600 kilometers. The USFK removed its TNWs in 1991. Prompted by mounting concerns about the security of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, then U.S. President George Bush announced in September 1991 that the United States would eliminate its entire worldwide inventory of ground-launched TNWs and would remove all nuclear weapons from surface ships and attack submarines.

Jeon Seong-hoon at the Korea Institute for National Unification said, “As North Korea’s nuclear capability increases, the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear umbrella could decrease. In that context, I believe, the redeployment of USFK’s tactical nuclear weapons, at least on a temporary basis, could be the best option.” An Army commanding general, who has been in charge of military operations, expressed a negative view about the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to the South. “Realistically, it’s impossible and not feasible,” the officer said, asking not to be named. “Politically, such a move would face severe opposition from China.”

DPRK newspaper accuses U.S. of providing nuclear umbrella to S Korea, China View, 22 June 2009

Rodong Sinmun, an official daily of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), on Monday accused the United States of attempting to provoke a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. commitment to provide a nuclear umbrella to South Korea under the pretext of “inexistent threats from the DPRK,” shows its “gangster logic” to attempt to dismantle the DPRK’s nuclear program while providing South Korea with a nuclear umbrella and attempting to “launch a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK,” said a commentary carried by the newspaper. As “a nuclear power,” the DPRK will not “allow the United States to stay aloof” if it provoked a war on the Korean Peninsula, the commentary said.

Doves Say S.Korea, US Corner NK, Korea Times, 19 June 2009

Yonsei University Professor Moon Chung-in, a former special attache to the inter-Korean summit in 2000, said Friday that hardening its stance toward the North and sending a signal of a South-led absorption reunification would be no help to the two Koreas’ building confidence. In a speech at a seminar, Moon said that deterrence would not necessarily lead to peace, noting it is part of an approach designed to manage peace. Rep. Lee Kang-rae, floor leader of the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP), said South Korea’s absorption-based reunification is the worst case scenario that the North has in mind. “The window of opportunity for South-North dialogue will be closed as long as Lee sticks to the approach,” said Lee. Former Unification Minister Lim Dong-won, meanwhile, speculated that U.S. commitment to the provision of a nuclear umbrella to South Korea would help the North justify its nuclear program for self-defense.

Extended deterrence for S. Korea admits North Korea’s de facto status as a nuclear state, Hankyoreh, 18 June 2009

The promise to protect South Korea under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” articulated during the South Korea-U.S. summit in Washington has stirred concern among security experts. Some experts fear that it is not merely a declaratory agreement requiring follow-up, but also signals a disaster in security and admits North Korea’s de facto status as a nuclear state. Some observers note that although the two leaders may have publically confirmed the U.S.’s promise of extended nuclear deterrence and included it in official summit papers, it is nothing more than a declaration and still requires detailed guidance and planning. As though it were conscious of such criticism, South Korean military defense authorities plan to discuss whether to adopt the issue of actualizing extended deterrence with their U.S. counterparts as part of the agenda being set for an upcoming working level Korea-US Security Policy Initiative meeting of high ranking defense ministry officials. If results are fruitful at that meeting, the issue of extended deterrence is expected to be brought forward to a defense ministers meeting and a meeting between the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the two countries. Observers, however, say this is likely to just be wishful thinking on the part of South Korean military defense authorities.

The term of “extended deterrence” made its appearance for the first time in the joint statement of the South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) produced just after North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006. The term was adopted instead of “nuclear umbrella” as a result of South Korea’s request for a stronger commitment of nuclear defense from the U.S. Kim Jong-Dae, the editor-in-chief of the defense journal , said, “South Korea has asked the U.S. for follow-up measures to promises of ‘extended deterrence’ before, but Donald Rumsfeld, then Secretary of Defense of the U.S. refused by saying, ‘That is not an issue that can be talked about at a defense ministers’ meeting. I cannot discuss nuclear strategies. Only President Bush can do that.’” He emphasized, “There is no possibility that the U.S. and South Korea can map out operation plans for actualizing ‘extended deterrence.’”

Taking the U.S.‘s security strategy into consideration, including how the United Strategic Command (STRATCOM) is in charge of nuclear weapons, some experts say South Korea does not have an avenue with the U.S. to discuss terms of nuclear deterrence. Experts criticize that the promise of “extended deterrence” could become a pretext in North Koreas’ demand for “nuclear disarmament negotiation” between the U.S. and North Korea, and it is contradictory to the Joint Communique of Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Paik Haksoon, a senior fellow of the Sejong Institute, says, “Extended deterrence and inclusion under the U.S. nuclear umbrella is based on the premise that North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and can use them.” Paik added, “North Korea will protest that the U.S. and South Korea are engaged in nuclear umbrella and extended deterrence talks that contradicts the aim of the six-party talks towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsular.” Head of Hankyoreh Peace Institute, Kim Yeon-Chul says, “The promise of extending protection under a U.S. nuclear umbrella contradicts efforts made towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Putting the issue on the agenda of the summit was politically motivated to coax the conservatives in South Korea and should not have been dealt with at the level of heads-of-state talks.”

Lee seeks extended US nuclear protection, Press, 16 June 2009

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is reportedly seeking a written promise of continued US nuclear protection amid tension with the North over its atomic program. Unnamed officials in Seoul were quoted by local media as saying that the North would be at the top of the agenda during Lee’s talks with the US President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday.  The officials also noted that Lee would seek to secure a written commitment that Washington would provide extended nuclear deterrence against the North.  The US maintains a nuclear umbrella over South Korea; periodically, the US reaffirms that protection. Security measures have been in place since the Korean Conflict abated, in 1953.