This paper examines the issue of nuclear latency (the potential for countries to obtain nuclear weapons capability) by focusing on the cases of the Republic of Korea and Japan, then looks at what Australia should do.
Since the 1946 ‘Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy’ and the closely associated Baruch Plan formulated by the United States, ‘nuclear latency’ —put simply, the potential for countries to obtain nuclear weapons capability—has been a factor threatening to undermine strategic equilibrium on the world stage. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and resulting nonproliferation regime may have allayed mid-20th century concerns about the rate of spread of nuclear weapons, but the notion of nuclear latency has by no means become obsolete.
Latent nuclear technology alone doesn’t result in nuclear proliferation—proliferation-related motivations, choices and decisions are required as well. Therefore, one useful way to analyse a country’s proliferation decision-making is through the lens of ‘technical capability + intent’.
This paper examines nuclear latency focusing on the cases of the Republic of Korea and Japan.
It then looks at what Australia should do and puts forward four key recommendations.