On Thursday, February 11, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted a roundtable with Mark Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ U.S. office.
During the discussion, Mr. Fitzpatrick presented the conclusions from his new book, Asia’s Latent Nuclear Powers. While the international community has been focused on curtailing the development of North Korea’s nuclear program, the next nuclear power in East Asia could be a government with closer ties to the West, namely Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea. Mr. Fitzpatrick believes South Korea, in particular, is most likely to develop their own indigenous nuclear weapons program because of the proximity of the threat they face and the widespread public support for domestic nuclear development. However, Mr. Fitzpatrick argues that none of these countries are likely to use their preexisting nuclear technologies to create nuclear weapons unless the U.S. security alliance loses credibility.
Should South Korea decide to pursue a nuclear weapons program, Mr. Fitzpatrick warns, they would face a host of negative effects that would outweigh the strategic gains. These “demerits” include the termination of the U.S.-Korea security alliance, the loss of nuclear cooperation by the United States and other countries, the economic strain brought on by international sanctions, the increased likelihood of a North Korean preemptive strike, the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region, and the loss of reputation in the global community. In other words, should South Korea pursue “indigenous nuclearization,” they would become “vulnerable on nearly every front.”
During the question and answer session, Mr. Fitzpatrick commented on Article Ten of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which provides a legal basis for a country to temporarily pull out of the treaty, citing “extraordinary events.” Although the legal basis exists, he argues, the NPT is separate from U.S. law and would not stop the U.S. from ceasing all further nuclear exchanges with South Korea.
The roundtable participants discussed the importance of “putting all options on the table” when crafting a response to North Korea and the South Korean public’s attitudes towards self-defense and the U.S. security alliance.
Date/Time: Thursday, February 11, 2016 / 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Place: Conference Room (2F), The Asan Institute for Policy Studies
*Mark Fitzpatrick is the Executive Director of IISS-US office. He has worked at IISS since 2005 after a distinguished 26-year career in the US Department of State. He is the author of Asia’s Latent Nuclear Powers: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan (IISS Adelphi book 455, 2016), Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (IISS Adelphi book 443, 2014) and The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: Avoiding worst-case outcomes (IISS Adelphi Paper 398, 2008). He received a Master in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.