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North Korea Threat is Pushing its Neighbors to Reconsider Nuclear Option

"The threat from North Korea has grown markedly even since my trip here earlier this year," the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Oct 28, while appearing alongside his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, at a press conference in Seoul.

Credit: Jean Chung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Credit: Jean Chung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs," he added, emphasizing that the US "does not accept a nuclear North Korea."

In face of the rising threats from North Korea, Hong Joon-pyo, the leader of a main opposition party of South Korea, the Liberty Korea Party, claimed that the US, South Korea, and Japan should establish a “freedom nuclear alliance” with atomic weapons deployed in all three countries to counter North Korea.

Hong asserted that North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons any time soon and the US should abandon its policy of pressure and engagement with the regime of Kim Jong Un and move toward a new buildup of nuclear weapons in South Korea. If Washington won’t oblige, South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear weapons.

Credit: Roman Harak via Wikicommons

Credit: Roman Harak via Wikicommons

“One way of dealing with gangsters is to act like a gangster yourself,” said Hong.

For the first time in recent memory, there is a daily argument raging in both South Korea and Japan in public about the nuclear option driven by worries that the US might hesitate to defend the allies concerning the retaliation by North Korea against the US mainland.

The opinions of Hong are not unique in South Korea. In the country, polls show 60 percent of the population favors building nuclear weapons, and nearly 70 percent want the US to reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons for battlefield use, which were withdrawn a quarter-century ago.

In Japan, the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who just won a two-thirds majority in parliament this month, never concealed his objective of overturning Japan's post-war constitution in order to build up military forces against the threat from the North. Abe’s administration has already determined that nuclear weapons would not be prohibited under the Constitution if maintained only for “self-defense”.

Although there is little public support for the nuclearization of Japan, the only nation ever to suffer a nuclear attack in the history, many experts believe that it could reverse quickly if North and South Korea both had nuclear arsenals.