Breaking Bad: South Korea's Nuclear Option

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Much of the speculation in Washington and Seoul about South Korea’s nuclear ambitions has been informed by a handful of recent public opinion polls. This has created an echo chamber effect in Washington and Seoul where some experts have accepted South Korean nuclear ambitions as a reality. This report finds that concerns about a nuclear South Korea are exaggerated, however. The author conducted the first U.S. multi-question polling of strategic elites in South Korea on the nuclear question and found that the vast majority of South Korean strategic elites (66 percent) do not favor nuclearization and confidence in the United States as a security provider remains strong. The new findings of this study have significant policy implications and the author provides several recommendations for the United States.

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Victor Cha
Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair