Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

What is the Washington Declaration?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Washington Declaration, NPT

Mains level: US nuclear establishments near China


Central Idea: The context is the recent visit of the South Korean President to the US to commemorate the 70th anniversary of US-South Korea bilateral relations. During the visit, the two countries signed the “Washington Declaration” as a nuclear deterrence strategy against North Korea’s regional aggression.

Washington Declaration: Key Terms

  • Nuke deployment by US: According to the declaration, an American nuclear ballistic submarine would be deployed in the Korean peninsula.
  • Intel mechanism: A nuclear consultative group would be formed to formulate principles of joint response tactics, and South Korea would receive Intel from the US regarding nuclear advancements.
  • Joint training: The US will strengthen South Korea’s nuclear deterrence capabilities through joint military training programs and an annual intergovernmental simulation.
  • Deterrence creation: The declaration 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.

Implications of the treaty

  • Big power politics: While the existence of the agreement is based on the security needs of South Korea, the policy reflects big power politics where the interests of the larger power (US) takes precedence.
  • US proprietorship over the nukes: The US is the only ‘sole authority’ to use the nuclear arsenal of the US in the event of a nuclear confrontation.
  • Maintaining stability: The assurance that the US and its nuclear weapons would protect its allies by being responsible for maintaining stability in the region aligns with the larger goal of non-proliferation.

US Stance on South Korea’s Nuclear Capabilities

  • Fouled the SK nuclear program: South Korea’s nuclear development programme supported by former president Park Chung Hee was hindered due to US pressure.
  • Strategic arms reduction: The US withdrew one hundred nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s as part of their “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” to make North Korea unarm itself.
  • Renewed interest after North Korea’s Rise: The Nuclear Posture Review 2022 reflects a shift in the US narrative where it is now concerned about the progressing nuclear capacities of North Korea.

Regional and domestic responses

  • China: It said it undermines the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries.
  • North Korea: Kim Jong-Un’s sister warned that the declaration would only result in making peace and security of North-East Asia and the world be exposed to more serious danger.


  • Overall, the Declaration is an important step in the direction of creating a more overt and close coordination among the US allies in the Indo-Pacific.
  • It seeks to deal with not only North Korea but also moves of China and Russia.

Back2Basics: Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The NPT is an international treaty signed in 1968 that aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Key facts about the NPT include:

  • Members: There are currently 191 parties to the treaty, including the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the US, Russia, China, France, and the UK).
  • Three main pillars: Non-proliferation, Disarmament and Peaceful use of nuclear energy.
  • Non-nuclear-weapon states: They are parties to the treaty agree not to acquire nuclear weapons and to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on their nuclear activities.
  • Nuclear-weapon states: They are the parties to the treaty agree not to transfer nuclear weapons or technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.
  • 5 year review: The treaty is reviewed every five years at a conference of parties, with the most recent review conference taking place in 2015.
  • Criticisms: NPT has been criticized for not doing enough to promote disarmament, and for perpetuating a system of haves and have-nots in which certain states have nuclear weapons while others do not. However, proponents argue that the treaty has helped to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote peaceful use of nuclear energy.


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