What is the Washington Declaration?

Source: The post is based on the article “What is the Washington Declaration?” published in The Hindu on 5th May 2023

What is the News?

The South Korean President arrived in the U.S. to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea bilateral relations. A highlight of the visit was the signing of the “Washington Declaration” as a nuclear deterrence strategy.

What is the Washington Declaration?

Signed between: US and South Korea

Purpose: It outlines cooperation towards nuclear deterrence strategy.

Key Features: According to the declaration:

– US nuclear ballistic submarine would be deployed in the Korean peninsula; 

– Nuclear consultative group would be formed to formulate principles of joint response tactics; 

– South Korea would receive Intel from the U.S. regarding nuclear advancements, and the U.S. will strengthen South Korea’s nuclear deterrence capabilities through joint military training programs and an annual intergovernmental simulation. 

– Reaffirmed the non-proliferation Treaty implying that South Korea would not venture into the creation of its own independent nuclear capabilities and would instead focus on deterrence measures through an alliance-based approach.

– The U.S. President will be the only ‘sole authority’ to use the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. in the event of a nuclear confrontation. 

Why is the US not keen on South Korea having a nuclear arsenal?

Firstly, the U.S. was hoping to make North Korea unarm itself. This is an erroneous assumption that it could deter the weapons production of North Korea by extracting South Korea’s nuclear capacity.

Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review 2022 reflects a shift in the U.S. narrative where it is now concerned about the progressing nuclear capacities of North Korea.

Thirdly, the U.S. wants to control global nuclear arms production. It has been reluctant to allow South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenal as it would hinder the prolonged efforts of controlling nuclear production in the world. 

What has been the response to this declaration?

China has said that the declaration undermines the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries.

North Korea warned that the declaration would only result in making peace and security in North-East Asia and the world be exposed to more serious danger.

The South Korean public is sceptical about U.S. support. A poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations reported that 71% of South Koreans want to build their own nuclear weapons. 

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