A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea

By Hans M. Kristensen, Robert S. Norris, November 2, 2017


During the Cold War, the United States deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea continuously for 33 years, from 1958 to 1991. The South Korean-based nuclear arsenal peaked at an all-time high of approximately 950 warheads in 1967. Since the last US nuclear weapons were withdrawn from South Korea in 1991, the United States has protected South Korea and Japan under a “nuclear umbrella” using nuclear bombers and submarines based elsewhere. While defense hawks in Seoul and Washington have, in 2017, called for the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, the authors argue against this idea. Doing so, they say, would provide no resolution of the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and would likely increase nuclear risks. Redeployment would also have serious implications for broader regional issues because it would likely be seen by China and Russia as further undermining their security. The Nuclear Notebook is always free-to-access in our digital Journal. Read the November/December Nuclear Notebook now.


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