Everybody is making fun of Donald Trump for suggesting that perhaps Japan and South Korea should be allowed to develop their own nuclear weapons to defend themselves from North Korea. Most of this criticism is just more ignorance. Obama is not ignorant, but he has to campaign for Hillary, and so he just allows himself to look stupid in order to defend her.
George W. Bush has already done something much worse than what Trump has proposed. In 2005 the US signed an agreement with India that allowed India to develop its own nuclear weapons, despite a history of decades of international pressure on India not to do so. The US agreed to accept Indian nuclear weapons despite its proximity to Pakistan and China, both of which it has fought wars with in recent history. Pakistan is as unstable and dangerous a nuclear neighbor as North Korea, and Pakistan has many more nuclear weapons. Japan is certainly more reliable as an ally than India, and South Korea probably is, too. In addition, the US undoubtedly knows that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, which it openly accepts. Of course Israel denies it has them, but this denial is universally regarded as a lie, or at best a thinly veiled fiction. The US accepts Israel’s nuclear weapons because of the enormous political influence of Jews in America, particularly the AIPAC lobby. Japan certainly has a more reliable, responsible, stable government than Israel. I don’t think any leader of Japan has publicly humiliated the President of the United States as Netanyahu did to Obama.
Under the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement negotiated by Bush, which could be a model for the arrangements proposed by Trump, India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and to place its civil facilities under IAEA safeguards. The US had to pass a new law in 2008 to allow nuclear cooperation with a state that had nuclear weapons and was not one of the five existing nuclear states recognized when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who negotiated the India agreement, should speak out in favor of Trump’s proposal. According to Wikipedia, opponents of the India deal argued that “it gave India too much leeway in determining which facilities were to be safeguarded and that it effectively rewarded India for continuously refusing to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” One of the arguments for the deal is that it will enable India to build up its nuclear arsenal so that it will be better able to fight a nuclear war with China. This argument would clearly apply to any other nation that is threatened by a nuclear neighbor, including Japan and South Korea.
Both Japan and South Korea are signatories of the NPT and have been much more responsible states in the nuclear field than India. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that negotiations with Japan and South Korea on this issue would be much more favorable to the US, the non-proliferation regime, and international peace and stability than the US-India agreement negotiated by Bush. Trump is more responsible on the nuclear non-proliferation issue than Bush was.
I do not favor giving Japan and South Korea nuclear arms. I think the current arrangement is better for world peace and stability. The commentariat’s condemnation of Trump’s idea without mentioning Bush’s negotiation of the India deal and the US Congress’ approval of it illustrates their same lack of understanding of the nuclear arms race that they accuse Trump of. Trump’s idea is not ridiculous; it builds on the work of previous Republican administrations.