Background and Options for Nuclear Arms Control on the Korean Peninsula

by Kongdan Oh

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The threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons development program could significantly increase tensions in Northeast Asia. This Note presents four options for achieving a nuclear-free Korea. The option of unilaterally withdrawing any U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea in order to induce North Korea to abandon the development of its own nuclear weapons was realized as a consequence of President Bush's worldwide unilateral withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in late 1990. This preempted another option linking the withdrawal of any U.S. nuclear weapons with North Korean implementation of international inspections of its nuclear facilities. The option of inducing North Korea to forgo nuclear weapons in return for improved economic and political relations with the international community is currently being pursued, but North Korea has been slow to respond, and the threat of economic and political sanctions against the North is being seriously considered. A fourth option, to attack suspected North Korean nuclear weapons facilities, is considered to be highly dangerous and of questionable value.

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