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Poll: Most Americans favor US nuclear warheads in Japan to counter North Korea

An intercontinental ballistic missile is launched in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service)
February 13, 2018

A majority of Americans would be in favor of placing American nuclear warheads in Japan and South Korea to counter North Korea, according to a Critical Issues Poll conducted in November by the University of Maryland.

Presented at a panel on “Confronting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs” at the Brookings Institution on Jan. 8, researchers found that 52 percent of respondents would support a move by the U.S. to implement nuclear warheads in countries neighboring North Korea.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un continues to try and beef up Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal while ignoring sanctions and defying the international community’s requests to cease those efforts. This has led some U.S. lawmakers to research other options in handling the rogue nation.

Just 21 percent of those polled said they would be opposed to the idea of moving nuclear weapons to Japan or South Korea if North Korea refused to give up theirs; 27 percent of people in the survey were unsure if they would support the move; 1 percent declined to give an answer.

The survey also asked participants’ thoughts on surrounding countries implementing their own nuclear arsenal as a deterrent. Of those asked, 33 percent even said they supported the idea of Japan acquiring their own nuclear weapons. The results were similar for South Korea, with about one-third favoring a South Korean-backed nuclear program.

The Brookings Institution hosted a discussion on the results of the public opinion survey, where panelists outlined various diplomatic and military options concerning North Korea’s nuclear program. They also discussed the potential future status of relations between North Korea and the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

During his presentation of the results, Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution said that North Korea’s actions are “of course an issue that affects all of us.”

The results also featured opinion-based questions in which individuals were asked to name counties and leaders that they believe pose the greatest threat to world peace and security. Of those who responded, 77 percent felt that North Korea was the country that posed the greatest danger. On the topic of world leaders, 62 percent said that Kim Jong Un was the greatest threat to peace.

The survey was conducted online from Nov. 1 through 6, 2017, from a national representative sample of individuals. Respondents were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of adults provided by Survey Sampling International. The national sample was 2,000, including a larger group of 1,042 18- to 24-year-olds. Responses were weighted by age, gender, income, education, race and geographic region using benchmarks from the U.S. Census.