Taiwan may be Asia’s most looming flashpoint, but the threats facing South Korea are no less dangerous. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to advance amid ongoing rumors of another nuclear test, which would be North Korea’s seventh. Particularly significant for South Korea’s emerging strategy in response is the growing realization that threats in the Indo-Pacific are not discrete and unrelated, but ultimately emanate from one actor: China.
In Seoul, speculation about Pyongyang’s next nuclear detonation centers on the days leading up to the US election. The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is expected to enshrine Xi Jinping as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, he begins on October 1. sixteen Kim Jong Un it won’t risk bankrupting the Chinese congress during its session, but the coming weeks will offer a dramatic opportunity to flaunt its nuclear capabilities. Kim’s recent announcement of his first-strike nuclear policy, coupled with blunt warnings that he will not negotiate the nuclear program, publicly codifies North Korea’s long-standing nuclear doctrine.