No U.S. Nukes in South Korea

By June 14, 2009

North Korea mistakenly believes there are U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun reportedly has issued a statement saying the U.S. has 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea. In this regional war of rhetoric it is important to at least get one fact right: The United States does not have nuclear weapons in South Korea. It used to – at some point close to 1,000 – but the last were withdrawn in 1991.

The only nuclear weapons the United States has in the Pacific today are the hundreds of warheads deployed on Trident II D5 sea-launched ballistic missiles on board eight Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarines patrolling in the Pacific Ocean. Some of them may be earmarked for potential use against targets in North Korea. Other weapons for bombers could be moved into the region if necessary, but they’re not today.

The North Korean obsession with the U.S. nuclear “threat” might be seen as confirmation that the nuclear deterrent works and hopefully will deter North Korea from attacking anyone. But the flip side of the coin is to what extent the U.S. nuclear posture in the Pacific – past and present – helps feed the North Korean nuclear rhetoric and perhaps even ambitions.

Additional information: A history of U.S. nuclear weapons deployment to and withdrawal from South Korea.

Categories: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, United States