The United States has just signed a new military agreement with South Korea, much to the chagrin of China and North Korea.
Under this agreement, US submarines carrying nuclear missiles will patrol along the Korean coast.
The strengthening of the North Korean nuclear arsenal worries more and more South Koreans. Not so much that they fear an attack by Kim Jong-un’s forces, but rather that they wonder how far the United States will be willing to defend South Korea if American cities are threatened by North Korean nuclear weapons.
The question is so topical that last January the South Korean president raised the possibility of his country acquiring nuclear weapons. It was the first time a South Korean president had gone this far, and American leaders were concerned.
Joe Biden also announced that a nuclear attack against an allied country would spell the end of the regime that committed that attack.
China’s real interests
Chinese leaders have denounced the new military agreement between South Korea and the United States. American leaders will stir up regional tensions and spark confrontations.
Of course, Chinese leaders are not critical of North Korea, which has embarked on an arms race and whose population the regime is starving.
In fact, the Chinese government has an interest in South Korea acquiring a nuclear arsenal. Why? Simply because a nuclear South Korea no longer needs a US nuclear umbrella.
This nuclear independence could contribute to the weakening of the alliance between China and the United States. This is exactly what China is looking for. The same reasoning applies to other US allies.
For China, the benefits of an eventual rupture between the United States and its allies outweigh the risks of nuclear proliferation.
Unfortunately, it is not at all certain that the new military agreement between South Korea and the United States will satisfy the South Korean population.
The question of the US commitment to South Korea’s defense remains theoretical. Subject to changes that may occur in the United States.
The rise of US isolationism may make US commitments to the defense of South Korea more questionable.
South Korea clearly has the knowledge and equipment to rapidly develop a large nuclear arsenal. It may be that, without saying so, the country already has some nuclear warheads, like Israel, or maybe even like Japan.
American leaders had no real choice to reassure their ally. But it would be naive to think that no new country will acquire nuclear weapons in the coming years.
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