Taiwan may be Asia’s most imminent flashpoint, but the threats to South Korea are no less perilous. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to advance amid constant rumors of another nuclear test, which would be North Korea’s seventh. The growing realization that threats in the Indo-Pacific are not discrete and unrelated, but ultimately emanate from a single actor: China, is particularly important to Korea’s emerging strategy. from the South in response.
In Seoul, speculation about Pyongyang’s next nuclear explosion centers on the days just before the US election. The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which should devote Xi Jinping as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, begins October 16. Kim Jong Un won’t risk messing up China’s congress during its session, but the coming weeks will provide a dramatic opportunity to flaunt its nuclear capabilities. Mr. Kim’s recent announcement of his first-strike nuclear policy, along with blunt warnings that he will not negotiate to abandon the nuclear program, publicly codifies North Korea’s longstanding nuclear doctrine.