Looming Clash Between Seoul and Washington Over Nuclear Technology

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YONHAP / EPA

South Korean President Park Geun-hye receives U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Seoul on April 12, 2013

When South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Washington on May 5 she will be reaffirming the 60-year alliance between the U.S. and her country with cordiality. Relations between Washington and Seoul are better than ever thanks to a free-trade agreement, greater policy coordination and solidarity against North Korea’s provocations. But there is an unresolved question in their relationship: How much nuclear technology should South Korea possess?

Representatives from both countries have tried to answer that question since October 2010, when they started negotiating over the 1974 nuclear-cooperation agreement, which permits commercial nuclear trade between the two nations. Under the pact, South Korea is banned from reprocessing spent U.S. fuel and enriching uranium — technologies that could be used to make weapons. Now, nearly 40 years after the agreement was signed, South Korea wants Washington to lift that ban. The U.S. refuses to do so. Washington and Seoul were supposed to come up with a new deal this spring before the original agreement expires in March 2014. They haven’t done so, but to prevent a hiatus in nuclear trade the two decided to extend the current agreement for two years and hold additional negotiations every three months until the new expiry date. “Because our cooperation is increasingly broad and deep, there are several complex technical issues that will take some additional time and effort to resolve,” said the U.S. State Department in a statement. The stopgap extension helps avoid potential awkwardness between Park and Obama at their first summit, but it ultimately underscores the clash between Seoul’s goals to expand its nuclear-energy industry and Washington’s efforts to contain the spread of nuclear technologies that could be used to produce weapons.

(PHOTOS: North Korea Ratchets Up Tension on the Peninsula)

Washington’s argument is that if South Korea has enrichment and reprocessing rights, then other countries that are trying to sign nuclear-cooperation agreements with the U.S. will also ask for the same rights and undermine nonproliferation efforts. That line of thinking does not go down well in South Korea, which considers itself a special ally of Washington. “It’s an issue of mistrust,” says Hahm Chai-bong, the president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. “To simply tell us right now that we don’t have the right to do reprocessing and enrichment because we might be like the North Koreans — that’s just unfair given our relationship and our standing within the global community.”

South Korea’s latest push for securing enrichment and reprocessing technologies has coincided with North Korea’s open threats of war, but many say this is merely a coincidence and that South Korea has no real interest in an expensive nuclear arsenal. The more pressing motivation is commercial: nuclear energy is big business in South Korea, where 23 reactors supply about 40% of the country’s electricity. South Korea plans to generate almost 60% of its electricity from nuclear energy by 2030 and is also building reactors in the United Arab Emirates. As an emerging nuclear-energy leader, it has ambitions to export up to 80 reactors worth more than $400 billion in the next 20 years. To become a more competitive nuclear exporter like France and Russia, South Korea needs the ability to provide nuclear fuel to its customers abroad, goes the argument. And because the nation is running out of space to store nuclear waste, it needs permission to reprocess spent fuel, the South Korean government says.

(MORE: What a Park Presidency Means for South Korea’s Foreign Policy)

U.S. and South Korean negotiators are scheduled to meet again in June, but analysts expect no immediate breakthrough in the talks. “A fair agreement will be one that recognizes South Korea’s emerging role by allowing it access to the technologies that it needs, such as proliferation-resistant used-fuel-management technology, while maintaining tighter controls on technologies such as enrichment, which the U.S. correctly understands as carrying a higher proliferation risk,” wrote Jack Spencer, a senior research fellow in nuclear energy at the Washington, D.C.–based Heritage Foundation. Seoul says one possible solution for breaking the deadlock is pyroprocessing technology. Unlike conventional reprocessing, which produces plutonium (the primary ingredient for building bombs), some scientists believe pyroprocessing leaves separated plutonium mixed with other elements, making it less suitable for nuclear weapons. Experts, however, have yet to reach a consensus that pyroprocessing is more proliferation-resistant. The U.S. and South Korea signed a 10-year research-and-development agreement in 2011 to experiment with pyroprocessing technology. As more research comes out, both sides might have room for compromise.

In the unlikely event that the deadlock remains permanent, Seoul might try to enrich uranium imported from other countries, which is not banned under the current agreement. But taking that path could seriously strain the alliance. For now, South Korea appears set on gaining Washington’s seal of approval. “We have a proven record of having been the best user of nuclear power for peaceful uses — that’s the way we should continue to use it,” explains Hahm. “We’ll see how convinced the Americans are.” It is a sentiment that South Korea’s President will certainly be gauging in Washington.

MORE: Just in Case: U.S. Has Plans for Americans to Flee South Korea

20 comments
ejpearcy
ejpearcy

Some great ally we are turning out to be!  Our supposed and arguably best ally, which is in imminent danger of a nuclear missile barrage from their intolerably aggressive neighbor to the north asks us for the mere potential for parity and we decline.  Meanwhile, Israel, which has the only nuclear weapons cache in the middle east, which they use to bully their non Jewish neighbors into kowtowing to their brutal aggression and puny imperialistic step wise genocide, has the worst kept cozy secret with US under the rubric of "special friendship", which is neither and has no strategic importance to us. It is also under no threat of devastating nuclear destruction being unleashed upon them. In fact they are the singular most horrible enemy creating machine we have ever seen in the modern world.

So, why is it that they are rife with nuclear weapons where none are needed and none are wanted while South Korea, a true friend and true ally of ours is left to twist in the wind with our too well known abandonment of our South Vietnamese partners when it became inconvenient for us to stick by them as if we had both the integrity and the spine to do so thus honoring our word and the best that We the People are made of?

Many of us know the crudacious answer to that question. The fat bribes and blackmails of the Jewish Supremecist lobby, A,I.P.A.C. in particular, dozens more of their organized cabals operating with impunity not only on United States soil but criminally within the very halls of our government but working for their masters in Nazi styled Israel in their interests. This includes Mayor Michael Bloomburg the Mayor of New York City, a multi billionaire who used enough of his ill gotten tax dodged gains to buy his way into an, until then, illegal third term as Mayor there., It includes the Mayor of Chicago, who did not even live there when he and company bought his way into the Mayor of Chicago's office and who is a member of the Israeli Defense Forces, so called.. It includes approximately 10 times the number of U.S. Senators which the Jewish proportion of the U.S. population would call for. One of those, just retiring is an Israeli citizen who listed himself with unusual candor as INDEPENDENT of both U.S. political mainstream parties because he represents his nation of Israel, not US. It includes among them BOTH United States Senators from California, the eighth largest economy in the world, It includes about 8 times their proportion of our population in the House of Representatives. That includes the ubiquitous presence of the gloating preening presence of the House Speaker Boehner's shadow from VA, the slippery self promoting Rep.Jewish Supremecist. It now includes 33.3% of our nine member Supreme Court, On and on it goes; and that super cabal is why Israel is treated as a special friend when they are neither.

By extension that is why a truly special friend and one in desperate need gets treated like the proverbial red headed step child making US into a babbling corrupt phony friend and weak kneed ally to those who do not have control over our politicians and concomitantly over our resources. This is tragic and it is shameful. It must change soon and both those who have illicitly taken control over our nations resources and the traitors who have orchestrated and funded this grave travesty must be brought to rough and final justice quickly.

RsdofnyUs
RsdofnyUs

With all the profits from smartphone, Samsung can develop commercial nuclear usage in South Korea.

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

"How much nuclear technology should South Korea possess?"

Twice as much as North Korea.


ex animo

davidfarrar


DavidSG
DavidSG

If the US permits SK to develop nuclear weapons, it will lose all moral right to oppose Iran and others from doing the same.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"it has ambitions to export up to 80 reactors worth more than $400 billion in the next 20 years"  And why don't the U.S. manufacturers of reactors have that business?


mac.mcrae
mac.mcrae

Allowing SK to develop its own nuclear deterrent seems far more logical than watching the US potentially start WW3 trying to disarm NK. If we were going to muscle NK we should have done it 20 years ago before they had icbms and miniaturized nukes and before we were broke. We cant afford to be the world's police anymore - this isn't the 1950s. Let the world's 15th largest economy fight its own battles for a change. If anybody should worry about proliferation and foot the bill to rid nukes from their own continent - it should be China and Russia. The US has caused enough trouble over there "trying to do good".

meddevguy
meddevguy

Do something about North Korea. Or South Korea will develop nuclear weapons in defense. Ditto Iran and the Mideast.

TanmayLololAnaisPradhan
TanmayLololAnaisPradhan

@ejpearcy Amen. The US has never had the interest of any of its "allies" at heart, except for its Dominatrix Israel, whose byatch it is.

The world has no reason to listen to americans. All these c*nts have done is start wars left and right for oil, called it restoring democracy, forgetting that they prop dictators like Mubarak for 50 some years, supply advanced weaponry to despots, and basically bully everyone to fall in line with their hedgemony.

You say, what about Libya ? We freed them w/o boots on the ground, because our hearts bleed for them.

Bull****, Libya had huge amounts of oil, that the west badly needed, so you started dropping bombs. You couldn't give a hoot about the suffering of others. Its just $$$

ejpearcy
ejpearcy

@DavidSG Considering the fact that my country is the only nation on earth which has ever unleashed atomic bombs on other nations, civilian populations to boot; and that our puny but insanely criminal "ally" the self proclaimed "special" though illegitimate nation of Israel is the only nation in the middle east that has and is prepared to use nuclear weapons to eliminate, by final solution, any nation who will not submit it's will to the Israeli Nazis; my country is absolutely in no position to even whisper our "moral right" to preclude parity among weapons of mass destruction. In fact, lest we forget, there was the saving grace of M.A.D. = mutual assured destruction, which may be the very reason that our entire planet doesn't glow nuclear at night. Moral right, indeed!

TanmayLololAnaisPradhan
TanmayLololAnaisPradhan

@DavidSG Oh, so the great and mighty US of A has a moral right to oppose other nations from obtaining N weapons, when it is the only one in history to have actually used them ?

ejpearcy
ejpearcy

@mac.mcrae Than U.S. Air Force General Curtis Lemay argued for precisely that and was summarily labeled as a nutcase by the Jewish Supremecist dominant media cabal in America, wasn't he??

edwardw6969
edwardw6969

@mac.mcrae Why should they have to develop one?  Tell China and Russia that if they don't do something about NK, we will give SK one.  Maybe two.

TomInShanghai
TomInShanghai

@TanmayLololAnaisPradhan @ejpearcy All you ignorant little 3rd world clowns always say the US starts wars for oil.  Well, the US never got any from Iraq, or any other place they started a war.


Wake up idiot!

ejpearcy
ejpearcy

@TanmayLololAnaisPradhan @ejpearcy Please understand friend that some of us even longtime unconscious believers in our nations high ideals, such as i am sorry to say i have been, are beginning to awaken to the decades long brain washing of our collective unconscious mind. i and i believe many others are beginning to tap our web neighbors, family members, and friends on the shoulder with facts such as i ranted earlier on this site. 

Concerning your answers to me; i heard the remark that we were in Iraq for the oil; but we haven't gotten one drop of Iraqi oil that i am aware of. i believe we went to war in Iraq because our "intelligence" establishment, which had at that time recently had Saddam on it's payroll, like Karzai today, had made him a deal he could not refuse. Noriega before him, same same. Same with Ghaddafi too. Raping school girls, chemical weapons unleased en masse on Kurdish rebels, who cared: but disobey our "intelligence" establishment and hold onto your britches bitc-es! Saddam's further jeopardy was that he was wanted dead by the ever insidious Israeli Nazis.  No d in hegemony as if that makes much difference.

i am buoyed up by the information i have gotten from a small fraction of Jews here and in Israel who have chosen to be truth tellers in the face of their own murderous international Jewish Supremecist cabals, who murdered one of their own who went public with the news of their formidable but then secret nuclear arms cache. One of the greatest bits of tactical advice i have ever ingested was Mao's concept of winning the hearts and minds of the opponents.  That, not mass murders that sweep up the innocent and ignorant among their coteries is the best tactic to employ, Onward!

DavidSG
DavidSG

@ejpearcy  Your questioning of you own country's morality is refreshing. Your antisemitic rants are abhorrent.

DavidSG
DavidSG

@TanmayLololAnaisPradhan @DavidSG  

I understand your sentiment entirely. There is no irrefutable answer. I think we have to just live with the fact that the best that can be done in a messy situation is limit any further damage. Or do you think Iran should have nukes?

ejpearcy
ejpearcy

@DavidSG @ejpearcy It would be truly refreshing if you would hold your pet tribe to the same level of honest scrutiny that i do with mine and Jewish truth tellers do to theirs. Part of the problem set of the Jewish Supremecists and the insane Israeli Nazis is that the lie pathologically and have no doubt done so since prior to the German Nazis attempt at a final solution to that problem. Don't even make a whimper along the  lines of asking what lies i have in mind. We can begin with the supposed 6 million Jews killed in gas chambers, not 5 million, not 5.7 million and not let's say 600,000 innocent Jews that were killed in concentration camps in Germany, Poland and elsewhere but exactly 6 million.   That, of course, has never been proven; nor is it anything more than a collectively faux guilt enforced lie told over and over again to promote the "special" quality of Jewish Supremacy.  Let's update to the insidious lies about the mass murder of the 100,000 (let's say for the sake of lying parity!) unarmed servicemen about the U.S.S. Liberty, a communications vessel far out of the theater of war the IDF was waging in 1967 to take even more territory that belongs to other sovereign nations. They totally denied that it took place at first. Then they (you?) totally denied that they knew, though they very well knew exactly whose ship it was, that it was unarmed, and that they had been so contacted by the U.S. Navy ship Liberty to that effect. They also denied that they returned repeatedly during their insane murderous rampage to murder innocent sailors adrift on flotsam in the sea. They denied that Jonathan Pollard was a highly placed spy against us and as recently as the imprecations of the odious war criminal Bibi what's his name was begging for his freedom!  Oh, and the Israeli Nazi nuclear weapons arsenal that they murdered their Jewish brother Mordechai Vannanu for telling the truth about?  What about their denial of using internationally outlawed phosphorous ordnance against civilian Palestinian natives who had the temerity to resist their criminal occupation of the Palestinian homelands? Shall i go on.

Allow me to add yet another nearly laughable LIE that the Israeli Nazis and their shills like you use every time some truth teller tells the truth about their crimes against humanity: "anti semitic". Well, idiots, Palestinians and other non Jews are Semitic and i darned well am not launching vitriolic rants against them, though in all honest they are certainly not guiltless when it comes to murdering innocent non combatants either. So, don't call me or my truth telling anti semitic Herr Jewish Supremecist shill!