In a poll released last month by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, 66 percent of South Koreans said they wanted their country to develop nuclear weapons to ward off attacks from North Korea. In fact, only 48 percent of the population last year believed America would use nukes to retaliate against a North Korean nuclear strike against them, down 7 percent from 2011.
The survey by the private think tank in Seoul is a clear vote of “no confidence” in the US, which has, by treaty, since 1953, pledged to defend the South, with nukes if necessary. If the South Koreans trusted Washington, they would not want to have their own arsenal of the world’s most destructive weapons.
And if this many South Koreans suspect Washington’s resolve, it’s a safe bet that many policymakers in Beijing and Pyongyang doubt America as well. China and North Korea have increased their war-mongering rhetoric conspicuously of late, and both are behaving arrogantly, as if they think they can push the US out of Asia.