The South Korean public debate on the country’s future nuclear options has recently extended beyond the usual pro-nuclear, conservative fringe voices of the past. The threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability has grown substantially, and more questions have been raised among South Koreans about the reliability of US security assurances to its key Asian ally, driven largely by what they see as US President Donald Trump’s leadership style. Still, South Korea’s opposition to nuclear weapons remains strong. But Seoul’s nuclear abstinence must not be taken for granted. American administrations can prevent Seoul from crossing the nuclear threshold by keeping North Korea at the top of their foreign policy priorities and taking steps to assure South Koreans that the United States will always come to its defense.
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