Washington Might Let South Korea Have the Bomb
17 January 2023
Washington’s attempt to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are at a dead end. The nation is a nuclear state. Its arsenal is growing in both size and sophistication. Although Pyongyang will never be capable of staging a preemptive strike against the United States, it soon may be able to retaliate against Washington for defending South Korea.The shifting balance has sparked a serious debate within the United States and South Korea over nuclear policy. The first question is whether it makes sense to pursue denuclearization—the famed CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement)—when the North already has the bomb. Only a few Panglossians still imagine that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can be talked or coerced into nuclear disarmament. Although official Washington policy resolutely refuses to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear state, reality may eventually force a policy retreat.