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[Speech] Extended deterrence, which is illegal and could lead to nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, must be abandoned

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The symposium on Northeast Asian nuclear issues and nuclear contaminated water

Delivered by Director Park Ki-hak

Research Institute For Peace and Reunification Of Korea

 

Extended deterrence, which is illegal
and could lead to nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, must be abandoned.

 

[Korean]


1. The extended deterrence policy is both illegal and unsuccessful.

 

- The United States' extended deterrence policy aims to deter North Korean attacks on South Korea through the threat of nuclear use, ensuring the security of its ally, South Korea. However, South Korea is currently facing an unprecedented nuclear threat from North Korea, and the Korean Peninsula has transformed into a nuclear frontline unlike any other conflict zone in the world. The U.S. extended deterrence policy, claiming to secure the safety of its ally South Korea through nuclear weapons, has proven to be a failure. As a result, the United States finds itself in a position where it cannot afford to dismiss concerns about North Korea's potential nuclear retaliation.


- The U.S. Atlantic Council states, “fear of a U.S. military action drives North Korea’s preparations for war and for achieving a nuclear deterrent.”(A Framework for Peace and Security in Korea and Northeast Asia, 2007. 4) This assessment by the Atlantic Council suggests that U.S. extended deterrence has instilled fear in North Korea, contributing to its pursuit of nuclear capabilities, thereby confirming the policy's failure. Based on this evaluation, the Atlantic Council recommends a shift (abandonment) in extended deterrence policy and advocates for the replacement with a peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula instead of the Armistice Agreement.


- Furthermore, the United States' nuclear threat against North Korea, that is, extended deterrence, provided factors that led North Korea to continue increasing its nuclear arsenal and adopting a doctrine of preemptive nuclear use.


- The extended deterrence policy is a nuclear threat strategy aimed at deterring North Korean aggression by posing a nuclear threat. However, employing a military threat against North Korea in the absence of an armed attack by North Korea constitutes a violation of both Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force or threats of force, and Article 2(3) of the UN Charter, which mandates the peaceful resolution of international disputes. “the threat of force is legal when the legal grounds for the actual use of force have already materialised”(Agata Kleczkowska, Prohibition of Threats of Force: A Silently Contested Norm?, 2023)

 


2. Tailored deterrence strategy constitutes illegal preemptive attack strategies against North Korea.

 

- The tailored deterrence strategy “encompasses military and non-military responses that are implementable based on crisis levels, ranging from North Korea's threat of nuclear use to imminent use and direct deployment”, as stated in the South Korean Ministry of National Defense's 'Defense White Paper 2022.'


- The tailored deterrence strategy involves preemptively targeting North Korea's nuclear facilities or command centers (with nuclear or conventional weapons) in the absence of an executed nuclear attack by North Korea. Consequently, this strategy poses a high likelihood of triggering a comprehensive retaliation from North Korea, leading to a full-scale conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Of particular concern is North Korea's adoption of a doctrine endorsing nuclear first-use, mirroring the U.S.-ROK doctrine of preemptive (nuclear) strikes. Currently, the Korean Peninsula is witnessing a nuclear standoff akin to the Cold War era, resembling a nuclear confrontation akin to the Cold War era, and is becoming a potential site for an actual nuclear conflict, surpassing other conflict regions like Ukraine or the Middle East.


- The tailored deterrence strategy corresponds to a form of anticipatory self-defense, targeting North Korea at the imminent stage of nuclear use. As the strategy involves striking North Korea's nuclear facilities or leadership in the absence of an executed nuclear attack, it does not fall under the right to self-defense outlined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, which is acknowledged only in cases of an actual armed attack.


- The preemptive attack strategy, such as the tailored deterrence strategy, is a violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force.

 

- Furthermore, the tailored deterrence strategy constitutes a violation of Article 4 of the South Korean Constitution, which stipulates the pursuit of peaceful reunification while denying reunification through the use of force, and Article 5, which rejects aggressive wars.

 


3. The nuclear operational plans 2022 and the combined exercises between the U.S. and South Korea for a potential nuclear attack on North Korea are also llegal.

 

- On December 18, 2023, during the 2nd meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group, the U.S. and South Korea decided to establish nuclear strategic planning and operational guidelines, as well as an integral extended deterrence regime, by June 2024. Furthermore, by incorporating these guidelines into the 'Operational Plan 2022,' they have planned to conduct training, including scenarios involving nuclear operations, during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises scheduled for August of this year.


- Conventional Operations Plan 5015 is currently being revised into the new Operational Plan 2022. Operational Plan 2022 includes nuclear operations, specifically nuclear strike plans against North Korea, introducing a different dimension of risk compared to previous operational plans. The Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise scheduled for August this year will be the first to implement the Nuclear Operational Plan 2022. With the inclusion of nuclear strike against North Korea during U.S.-South Korea combined exercises, the likelihood of a nuclear war becoming a reality on the Korean Peninsula has increased significantly compared to previous conventional U.S.-South Korea combined exercises.


- The nuclear operations outlined in Operational Plan 2022 will be under the command of the U.S. Strategic Command. This signifies that the reversion of operational control over South Korean forces has become even more challenging.


- The inclusion of nuclear operation plans in the New Operational Plan 2022 implies that the plan has become part of the U.S. Strategic Command's nuclear operation plans. This means that the South Korean military has been tasked with defending against attacks from North Korea's Pacific Fleet and attacks on the U.S. mainland, making Korea a forward base for defending the Pacific Fleet and the U.S. mainland. The fact that Operation Plan 2022 is part of the US Strategic Command's nuclear operation plan means that the intervention of USFK and South Korean forces in the Taiwan-China conflict, already reflected in Operation Plan 2022, is established as a fait accompli, linked to the US-Japan joint operational plans. Furthermore, the Pacific US military defense mission against Chinese attacks becomes even more firmly established, indicating that Korea's transformation into a major invasion base for China will accelerate.


- Operational Plan 2022 and the combined US-ROK exercises are also illegal because they are based on illegal policies and strategies of extended deterrence.


- The use of nuclear weapons by the United States against North Korea, whether it constitutes a first strike or a second strike in response to North Korea's nuclear weapons use, is illegal in any case. It violates the principles of distinction, prohibition of unnecessary suffering, proportionality, and military necessity.


- Specifically, Operational Plan 2022 and the combined US-ROK exercises are aimed at the destruction of the North Korean military, occupation of North Korea, and the end of the North Korean regime. This violates the Saint Petersburg Declaration of 1868, which states that 'the only legitimate object which States should endeavor to accomplish during war is to weaken the military forces of the enemy.' Additionally, it contradicts the requirements of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which limits the use of force to repelling an attack by an aggressor.


- The South Korean military performing the mission of defending the Pacific U.S. forces and the U.S. mainland, as well as the participation of U.S. forces stationed in South Korea in operations outside the Korean Peninsula, constitute violations of the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty and are against the spirit of the South Korean Constitution, which denies aggression.

 


4. Illegality of Nuclear Weapons Use and Threats

- The use of military force by South Korea and the U.S. against North Korea is illegal when there has been no armed attack by North Korea.


- Even in the event of preemptive strike by North Korea, retaliating with nuclear weapons for self-defense would violate international humanitarian law (war crimes).


- Regardless of North Korea’s preemptive use of nuclear weapons, using nuclear weapons for self-defense would still be illegal with no significant change in circumstances.

 


5. Alternatives

 

- Extended deterrence has not only failed to guarantee South Korea’s security but has also transformed the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear frontline, increasing the possibility of nuclear war in the region more than anywhere else in the world.


- Extended deterrence violates South Korea’s sovereignty and complicates the restoration of wartime operational control. Furthermore, extended deterrence expands the mission of the South Korean military from defending against attacks from North Korea or China to defending Pacific forces and mainland U.S., effectively turning South Korea into a forward base for Pacific forces and a base for potential invasion against China.


- Extended deterrence policy, strategy, and operational plan 2022, should be abandoned.


- Illegitimate threats of force, such as combined U.S.-South Korea military exercises, should be halted.


- The U.S. must withdraw its hostile policies toward North Korea and guarantee North Korea’s security by concluding a peace agreement between the U.S. and North Korea (DPRK). Simultaneously with a Korean Peninsula peace agreement, the U.S. and North Korea must achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


- The demand for CVID regarding North Korea is in line with the extended deterrence policy, so North Korea is unlikely to accept, as it is neither fair nor realistic.


- North Korea should also repeal nuclear legislation that regulates nuclear deterrence policies and preemptive nuclear doctrines.

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