For over 60 years, South Korea has relied on the American nuclear umbrella for defense against North Korea. Throughout his election campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump said that US allies would have to do more to ensure their defense, either by increasing military budgets or paying the US for protection.
Cheong Seong-chang, the head of the Department of Unification Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute, a leading South Korean national security think tank, told Sputnik Korean that "South Korea needs to start planning for any drastic changes in the sphere of Northeast Asia's security which might occur under Donald Trump. We must act proactively."
The analyst, know in expert circles as a proponent of engagement with Pyongyang, stressed that "if Trump remains open to dialogue on the issue of South Korea and Japan gaining nuclear weapons, it's entirely possible that in order to deter the growing nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea, Seoul will, in agreement with the US, begin the development of its own nuclear capabilities."
Nevertheless, Cheong said, "Trump, whose victory was 'impossible in principle', ended up winning the race. Therefore, I think that there is a chance for South Korea to acquire its own nuclear weapons."
Ultimately, the expert suggested that to build US-South Korean relations under Trump and strengthen the country's security in general, Seoul will be forced to completely rethink its security strategy, and perhaps its politics as well, including the officials responsible for diplomacy, security, and questions regarding unification policy.