South Korea’s Nuclear Option

Issue & Policy Briefs April 27, 2011, No. 67

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been on the rise since North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006
and 2009. Efforts to improve the security environment on the Korean Peninsula have become more
difficult after the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in March, and North Korea’s artillery strike on
Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010. There are indications that Pyongyang plans a third nuclear
test. In a recent opinion poll a majority of South Koreans supported the idea of South Korea acquiring
nuclear weapons. Fears of an increased nuclear threat from Pyongyang have also caused several
southern politicians to demand the return of U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea.