South Korea considers a nuclear arsenal to counter the North

No longer sure they can rely on the United States, an increasing number of South Korean lawmakers say their country should develop its own nuclear arsenal to deter an attack by Kim Jong Un, their belligerent neighbor to the north.

North Korea’s rapid missile advances, including successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July and again on Friday, are reviving calls for South Korea to assert its “nuclear sovereignty.” South Koreans are wary of President Donald Trump’s isolationist rhetoric and his calls for Asian allies to shoulder more of the defense burdens borne by the U.S. military.

“Trump’s ‘America-first’ policy has triggered this kind of public sentiment,” said Moon Chung In, a top national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae In. Trump also has wavered on his commitment to defending South Korea, he said, including suggesting during the campaign that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear arsenals.

While President Moon, a liberal who took office in May, does not support calls for South Korea to join the nuclear club, polls show that a majority of South Koreans surveyed favor the idea. Support bumps higher whenever North Korea conducts a nuclear or missile test and members of South Korea’s two major conservative parties are pressing Moon to at least explore the nuclear option of developing nuclear weapons.

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