Paul Lachine

South Korea’s Iran

The US is now wrestling with the nuclear fears of two of its close allies, Israel and South Korea. While Israel’s alarm at the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is existential in nature, South Koreans, too, fear that their country, faced with the North Korea’s nuclear obsession and uncertainty about America’s security guarantee, could become a wasteland.

SEOUL – The United States is now wrestling with the nuclear fears of two of its close allies, Israel and South Korea. Israel’s alarm at the prospect of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is existential in nature. The same is true of South Korea, whose capital sits only 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border with the North.

On February 29, the US and North Korea reached an agreement in which the North promised to halt its nuclear weapons development in exchange for food aid. But South Koreans know that the poverty-stricken North is highly unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons programs, no matter what it promises. Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s complaint that he was “tired of buying the same horse twice” from North Korea appears to have been forgotten.

To be sure, US President Barack Obama’s administration has had some positive influence on the North, which has now agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities at its Yongbyon facility. Moreover, the North’s hermetic communist regime will accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in exchange for food aid. But such promises are usually short-lived.

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