South Korea may sign and ratify or accede to the TPNW, but will have to make changes to its policies and practices to become compliant.
North Korea’s continuing advancement of its ballistic missile capabilities and nuclear-weapons programme led to a resurgence of support in South Korea in 2022 for redeployment of US nuclear weapons in South Korea or even for the country to develop its own nuclear weapons.1 At the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in August 2022, South Korea said that the ‘credibility and relevance of the NPT are being questioned’. It noted ‘dangerous and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and threats to use nuclear weapons’, decreased transparency regarding nuclear stockpiles, and widening gaps ‘in assessing progress in nuclear disarmament’.2
In the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in October 2022, South Korea said that it is ‘unbearably frustrating that the threat and possibility of use of nuclear weapons are looming larger than ever.’3 It also said that ‘The tall order to realise a world without nuclear weapons requires effective multilateralism,’ and ‘pragmatic and realistic approaches.’4
- South Korea should renounce the possession and potential use of nuclear weapons on its behalf, and ensure that nuclear weapons do not have a role in its defence posture.
- South Korea should comply with its existing obligation under Article VI of the NPT and pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament.
- South Korea should urgently adhere to the TPNW. Until it is in a position to do so, it should welcome the TPNW as a valuable component in the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, work with the Treaty's states parties on practical steps towards disarmament, and attend the meetings of states parties as an observer.