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FACT CHECK: No US decision to deploy 180 nuclear warheads to deter North Korea


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FACT CHECK: No US decision to deploy 180 nuclear warheads to deter North Korea
Research institutions, not the US government, have made the recommendation to increase South Korean security amid North Korea’s nuclear threat

Claim: The United States will be sending 180 nuclear warheads to South Korea to deter growing threats from North Korea.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The TikTok video was posted on November 5 by an account with 135,200 followers and has since gained 4.6 million views and 166,000 likes. The same video was posted on YouTube on November 4 by a channel notorious for dubious military reports. It has garnered 267,223 views, 4,100 likes, and 254 comments as of writing.

The narrator said: “180 nuclear warhead ‘hinahanda na ng US sa Asya. North Korea muli na namang nag-iingay. ‘Hinahanda na ng US ang mga nuclear assets habang pinapataas ng North Korea ang retorika nito.”

(The US is currently preparing 180 nuclear warheads headed to Asia as North Korea creates noise again. The US is readying nuclear assets while North Korea increases its rhetoric.)

The bottom line: There are no official reports from the US Department of Defense confirming the claim. The supposed deployment of 180 US nuclear weapons to South Korea is among the recommendations by the US think tank RAND Corporation and South Korea’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. The institutions’ findings do not represent official decisions from the two countries.

South Korean security: The joint report released in October 2023 outlined potential options that the US and South Korean governments could take to support South Korean security amid Pyongyang’s growing nuclear threat. 

Among the recommendations is for US nuclear weapons to be committed to support South Korea’s security “to establish a degree of parity with the North Korean nuclear weapon threat.”

“[If] implemented roughly as described, this option could commit up to about 180 US nuclear weapons to [Republic of Korea] security in the next few years,” the report read.

Anti-nuclear stance: South Korea is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and its government has sworn off the production, trade, and use of nuclear weapons.

The growing threat from North Korea has led to public clamor for South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons. However, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the country is capable of fending off North Korea’s “preposterous ambitions” and that nuclear development would not be “the right way.”

US nuclear deployments: Earlier in 2023, a US nuclear-armed submarine made a port call in Busan as part of agreements between the two countries to counter the North Korean nuclear threat. 

Pyongyang has vowed to increase its nuclear arsenals and recently amended its constitution to enshrine its policy on nuclear force, citing US “provocations.”

Rappler has previously fact-checked the YouTube channel posting erroneous military-related claims in Asia:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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