Bomba O Morte! New Publication on the History of Nuclear Weapons in Korea

I just received page proofs for an article I am publishing this month in Limes, an Italian geopolitical magazine. My article is appearing in a special issue specifically on nuclear weapons organized by Leopoldo Nuti.

I had originally chosen somewhat of timid title for the article, “The Korean Peninsula and Nuclear Weapons: An Historical Perspective,” though the editors opted for something more eye catching: “Bomba O Morte! Perché P’yŏngyang Non Molla L’Atomica” (“Bomb or death! Why Pyongyang does not give up its atomic weapons”).

I am by no means of an expert on this topic, so it was admittedly a bit of a challenge to write the article. I made an effort, however, to accomplish four things with the article:

  • Highlight American nuclear strategy in Korea, particularly during the Cold War, and how this shaped the nuclear decisions of both South and North Korea;
  • Demonstrate that South Korea also once pursued the development of nuclear weapons, and that this likely played a role in North Korea’s own pursuit of these weapons;
  • Convey the long and complicated history of North Korea’s efforts to establish a nuclear weapons program, and how this will make it more difficult to convince Kim Jong Un to rollback his nuclear program;
  • Comment on the potential role of China in resolving the present-day North Korean nuclear crisis, suggesting that China may not have the same influence over the DPRK which western policymakers often assume it does;

Unfortunately the editors appear to have scrubbed my footnotes from the text, which denies readers some context of where I was getting my information and how I was developing my argument. For clarification, I originally cited:

  • declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on North Korea, South Korea, and U.S. bombing campaigns;
  • documents from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library on the South Korean nuclear program;
  • translated Hungarian and East German documents about North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons;
  • several reports and conversations from the Jimmy Carter Library;
  • and the standard secondary literature (Bruce Cumings, Jonathan Pollack, and Siegfried S. Hecker and Robert Carlin)
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