Photo: South Korea's Hyunmoo-2 missiles. Credit: Ministry of Defense.
Because of all the focus on North Korea’s nuclear program, South Korea’s own military capability is often overlooked. In an excellent article in War on the Rocks, Ian Bowers and Henrik Hiim outlined South Korea’s defense strategy and its independent deterrent capacity. Bowers and Hiim noted that South Korea’s approach involves defending against North Korean missiles and eliminating North Korean leadership following an attack, and found that under the Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration, South Korea “drastically improved its precision-strike capabilities, investing in a range of advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets as well as a burgeoning force of air-, sea-, and ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles.”
Bowers and Hiim then make an important point that South Korea’s increased conventional capacity may impact North Korea’s denuclearization: “if the United States wants to ensure that any denuclearization initiatives are successful, it may need to persuade South Korea to undertake conventional arms reductions, particularly with regard to offensive capabilities.”