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President Yoon Suk Yeol and first Lady Kim Keon Hee depart to Madrid for NATO Summit at Seoul Air Base June 27, 2022

President Yoon Suk Yeol and first Lady Kim Keon Hee depart to Madrid for NATO Summit on June 27, 2022

Analysis & Opinions - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Dueling Nuclear Nightmares Behind the South Korean President’s Alarming Comments

| Jan. 25, 2023

Earlier this month, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol set off alarms. In an off-the-cuff remark, he warned that Seoul might need to develop nuclear weapons—or demand redeployment of U.S. nuclear arms to the Korean Peninsula—to counter North Korean nuclear threats. In doing so, Yoon spotlighted a popular view once reserved for hawkish commentators, defense intellectuals, and former military officials. Keeping nuclear weapons out of South Korea will ultimately be a U.S. responsibility that requires addressing both the deteriorating security environment and the domestic drivers underlying Yoon’s statement.

People Almost Press a Red Button

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Analysis & Opinions - ETH Zukunftsblog

The Nuclear Reality Is Unsettling

| Nov. 21, 2022

“I research nuclear arms control.” For years, this line produced blank stares in social settings as I tried to explain my job’s importance. After all, nuclear weapons are quite distant from the lives of most people, particularly since the Cold War has been over for decades.

Then came the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the West risked nuclear retaliation with attempts to assist Ukraine in the conflict.1 Suddenly, my Center for Security Studies colleagues and I found ourselves explaining the world’s unpleasant nuclear realities to the media and public.

North Korea launches a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile reported to be a Hwasong-17, its largest-known ICBM, on May 25, 2022.

Image via YTN & YTN plus

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Poll: Americans, Japanese, and South Koreans Don't Support Using Nuclear Weapons Against North Korea

| Oct. 25, 2022

For months, evidence has accumulated that North Korea may be preparing its seventh nuclear explosive test. Continuous warnings by analysts and the media about this possibility are a sobering reminder that Pyongyang's continued pursuit of a larger nuclear arsenal remains a challenge for the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the nonproliferation regime. This continues to be the case even as the public and leaders around the world have largely shifted their attention to the nuclear dimensions of the war in Ukraine.

INF inspection of Pershing II missiles in 1989

Wikimedia Commons

Analysis & Opinions - Science

Beyond Nuclear Deterrence

| Oct. 14, 2022

In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union squared off in what game theorist and Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling described as a nuclear game of “chicken” that threatened humanity’s survival. The Cuban Missile Crisis spurred six decades of efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and inspired a generation of scientists to think critically about reducing atomic risks. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear threats during the war in Ukraine are an unambiguous reminder that such dangers have outlived the Cold War. A new wave of scientific research is urgently needed to understand conditions for making global nuclear disarmament desirable and feasible.

On January 22, 2021, Foreign Minister of Austria Alexander Schallenberg gave a press conference on the entry into force of the TPNW at the Foreign Ministry in Vienna.

Austrian Foreign Ministry via Wikimedia Commons

Magazine Article - Arms Control Today

The First TPNW Meeting and the Future of the Nuclear Ban Treaty

| September 2022

As diplomats, activists, and researchers converged on Vienna in June for the first meeting of states-parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), recent tragic world events highlighted how critical it was to convene this multilateral forum on nuclear disarmament.

Since February, Russia’s war against Ukraine has epitomized the grave dangers of a world where nine states possess approximately 12,700 nuclear weapons.1 That Russia could invade a sovereign state and indiscriminately target its civilian population, while using nuclear threats to deter NATO from intervening, has stunned the world. It offers a stark reminder that possessing nuclear arms can enable abhorrent violations of international law

President of Russia Vladimir Putin at a meeting Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz in the Kremlin in Moscow

Wikimedia Commons via Presidential Executive Office of Russia

Journal Article - Survival

The War in Ukraine and Global Nuclear Order

| Aug. 02, 2022

The global nuclear order had been challenged in recent years by individual proliferators, the moribund US–Russian arms-control process and resultant frustration over stalled progress towards disarmament. Then Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine under cover of nuclear threats against NATO. This has neither exposed the international nuclear-governance regime as toothless nor brought it to the verge of collapse. The global nuclear order’s history shows its resilience to rogue acts by great powers. It will continue to serve key nuclear-capable states’ security and energy interests in the non-proliferation domain. Arms control between Washington and Moscow has always been sensitive to their strategic whims and can be reconstituted. The main consequence of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war is renewed public awareness of the often unpalatable role nuclear weapons play in international politics. Nuclear targeting, deterrent threats and associated risk-reduction efforts are hardly new phenomena.

HE Mr. Benno Laggner, Resident Representative of Switzerland to the IAEA, deposits Switzerland’s Instrument of Ratification to Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director General, during his official visit at the Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria in January 2022.

Dean Calma/ IAEA via Wikimedia Commons

Analysis & Opinions - Swissinfo

Switzerland’s wait-and-see approach to nuclear ban treaty is sensible

| July 21, 2022

From June 21-23, dozens of countries gathered in Vienna to discuss how to implement the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)External link. They were joined by nuclear disarmament activists from around the world, including hibakusha – atomic bombing survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Swiss diplomats were also present, but only to observe rather than directly participate. This may seem surprising, but it’s consistent with Switzerland’s pragmatism on questions of nuclear abolition.

Switzerland’s decision was based on careful study. Following a report by an interdepartmental working groupExternal link, the government opted not to become a TPNW member in 2018 and 2019. Instead, the country wants to work on nuclear disarmament with states inside and outside the treaty. Practically speaking, this means sending Swiss experts to observe TPNW proceedings. And that engagement is a good thing because the nuclear ban treaty is here to stay and cannot be ignored.

Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, meets with Republic of Korea Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, before a trilateral meeting between the U.S., Republic of Korea, and Japan at PACOM headquarters.

Department of Defense, Dominique A. Pineiro via Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Journal of Conflict Resolution

Under the Umbrella: Nuclear Crises, Extended Deterrence, and Public Opinion

| May 26, 2022

How robust is public support for extended nuclear deterrence in patron and client states? Recent studies have improved scholarly understanding of US public opinion about nuclear weapon use against non-nuclear adversaries. Yet, there is limited knowledge of public attitudes regarding retaliation for nuclear strikes against US allies. We develop a theoretical typology of nuclear crises and investigate this phenomenon with a novel survey experiment (n = 6,623). Americans, Japanese, and South Koreans viewed realistic emergency alert messages about a most-likely case for nuclear retaliation: a North Korean missile attack on a US ally protected by the nuclear umbrella. Support for nuclear retaliation is low in all three countries, with important cross-national differences. Favorability increases with North Korean nuclear first-use, but it remains limited nonetheless. Surprisingly, US “tripwire” troop casualties do not increase Americans’ demands for nuclear retaliation. These findings have important implications for the study of nuclear crises and practice of extended deterrence.

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News - Tehran Times

Risks of Nuclear War Are Growing, But Still Remain Low

| Mar. 16, 2022

“The risks of nuclear war are growing, but they still remain quite low,” Stephen Herzog tells the Tehran Times. For example, Herzog says, “Cold War examples show that some NATO or Russian troop deaths, or aircraft losses, will not result in a ‘Moscow-for-Washington’ strategic nuclear exchange.” While the Ukraine war is going on, some political observers warn about the expansion of war to other countries and a perilous confrontation between Russia and NATO.

“This has quickly become a conflict involving NATO. Western countries are providing weapons and intelligence to help Ukraine resist the Russian military,” Herzog, also an associate of Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom, notes.

Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gather in Geneva for NPT Prepcom 2018.

JWB/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Contemporary Security Policy

Durable Institution Under Fire? The NPT Confronts Emerging Multipolarity

The regime built around the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has helped curtail the spread of nuclear arms for fifty years. In hindsight, it is remarkable only nine states possess the world’s most powerful weapon. The NPT achieved much success during Cold War bipolarity and U.S. unipolarity in its aftermath. But today, China’s rise and Russia’s resurgence have ushered in a new era of emerging multipolarity. Can the treaty withstand the potential challenges of this dynamic environment? There is a real risk that multipolarity may shake the scaffolding of the nonproliferation regime, presenting a significant test to the NPT’s durability. This article identifies four essential elements of the nonproliferation regime: widespread membership, adaptability, enforcement, and fairness. History suggests bipolarity and unipolarity in the international system largely sustained and promoted these NPT features. When international regimes lack such elements, it sharply curtails their long-term efficacy.