Heajeong Lee(Political Science and International Relations, Chung-Ang University) The Korean War (1950-1953) was arguably the hot war that globalized, militarized, and institutionalized the Cold War. In July 1953, the Korean War ended not with a peace treaty but with an armistice. During the Cold War, the Korean Peninsula had been an epicenter of rivalry not only between the two Koreas but also between their allies and partners – the U.S. Soviet Union, China, and Japan. The end of the Cold War did not bring a peace dividend to the Korean Peninsula. Rather it led to a strange arms race or the so-called North Korean nuclear crisis. Diplomatically isolated and economically devasted, North Korea had embarked on a rather tortuous nuclear armament-diplomacy to ensure its survival against the overwhelming power of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. In 2018, a virtuous circle of diplomatic normalization-peace regime-denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was agreed upon between two Koreas and the U.S. under the respective leadership of Moon Jae-in, Kim Jung-un, and Donald Trump at the Panmunjom and Singapore summits. This was a radical vision of peace because it required a complete overhaul of the existing division-armistice-alliance system on the Korean Peninsula. Soon the militarism of the existing system reared its head and prevailed on the Korean Peninsula and in the world. In early February 2019, the Trump administration notified Russia that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in six months for Russia's alleged violations of the treaty. The INF Treaty of 1987 was a historical marker of the end of the Cold War, and an iconic symbol of human reason to recognize the insanity of the balance of terror – Mutual Assured Destruction. In late February 2019 at Hanoi, Trump foiled Kim Jung-un's dream of a 'small deal' – trading nuclear facilities at Yongbyon for the lifting of sanctions imposed on North Korea – by leaving the summit without any agreement. Both events marked the end of a post-Cold War era/hope for peace, and the beginning of a new era of nuclear arms race on the Korean Peninsula and in the world. North Korean nuclear crises were closely intertwined with the historical evolution of wars and nuclear regimes in the world. The US-North Korea agreement at Geneva in 1994 was made possible by the need for the U.S. to institutionalize a permanent and global non-proliferation system. The U.S. was not genuinely committed to diplomatic normalization and peacebuilding. Rather it believed in the imminent collapse of the North Korean regime. Hopes of a post-Cold War peace began to crumble in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Driven by the pursuit of absolute security-a combination of fear/anger and military primacy/unilateralism -, the Bush administration launched a war on terror, designated North Korea along with Iraq and Iran as an 'axis of evil,' and abandoned the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty – the basis of the Cold War nuclear deterrence. With the collapse of the Geneva Agreement and the negation of 'negative security assurance,' North Korea embarked on a new round of nuclear armament – the so-called second North Korean nuclear crisis. Russia vehemently opposed the US attempts to build missile defense system. The Bush administration's military unilateralism proved delusional. Its war on terror, coupled with the 'Great Recession,' had eroded the very military, economic, and ideological foundations of its power. Trapped in an unwinnable war in Iraq, it resorted to a multilateral format of six-party talks to deal with the second North Korean nuclear crisis. But the new forum also failed to create a new basis for peace. North Korea had carried out 6 nuclear tests and numerous missile tests, culminating in the successful development of an ICBM in 2017. Meanwhile, China had risen to challenge US hegemony, and Russia's revisionism or grievances against the US led to its war against Georgia in 2008, annexation of Crimea, and intervention in Ukraine in 2014. In 2019, the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty has rushed in a new nuclear age in the world, which is much more unstable than the previous Cold War and post-Cold War periods. During the Cold War, the stability of nuclear deterrence was premised upon the strategic parity of the US and Soviet nuclear powers and the ABM Treaty, and the geopolitical stability of the whole world, especially that of East Asia was based not only upon the US-Soviet Union understanding of each other's respective sphere of influence but also upon the US-China rapprochement. The collapse of the Soviet Union and China's 'strategic' acceptance of US unipolarity was the foundation of the post-Cold War world order in general. The Trump administration's withdrawal from the INF Treaty was part of a new strategic campaign to preserve US primacy over the great powers of Russia and, especially China through a policy of 'peace through strength', including a comprehensive modernization of nuclear armament. The instability of the third nuclear age stems from many factors. First, three-way nuclear competition is inherently more complicated than two-way nuclear competition. China's nuclear arsenal is still small compared to that of the US and Russia but, it is growing rapidly. Both the US and Russia had to think through a scenario in which one would defeat the other but become a weaker party vulnerable to China. Such a strategic nightmare has called for a massive buildup of the US nuclear arsenal. Second, there is no general cooperation or collusion between the three great powers, comparable to their cooperation during the Cold War nuclear game. In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and threatened to use nuclear weapons, and in March 2023 it suspended the New START Treaty – the only remaining nuclear arms treaty between the two countries, which expires in 2026. China is not a party to the treaty and given the long-term prospects of US-China rivalry or strategic competition, there is little chance that China would agree to a new trilateral nuclear arms control treaty. Third, disruptive technologies such as sensors and AI, etc. have undermined the traditional logic of nuclear deterrence. There are many technological 'fantasies' or concerns about the ability to detect and destroy an adversary's nuclear weapons before or after launch, for example, by hypersonic missiles. Fourth, in this third nuclear age, there are new 'regional' nuclear powers such as India, Pakistan, and North Korea. It is a thorny question – strategically and ethically - whether, how, and under what conditions the international society and the existing nuclear powers should accept these powers. Another complicating feature of the third nuclear age is that these new, regional powers are involved in a complex geopolitical game among themselves and with other great powers. The India-Pakistan-China trilateral game is a case in point. The Korean Peninsula after Hanoi's 'no deal' in 2019 may be one of the most complex and complicated security dilemma cases of the third nuclear age. North Korea is the weakest of the six parties and has been subject to the US nuclear umbrella/threat and sanctions ever since the Korean War. From its perspective, developing nuclear weapons is a 'rational' strategy for survival. But, unlike India and Pakistan, North Korea has rarely been accepted by international society as a de facto nuclear power. In addition to an 'ethical hurdle', some experts question its nuclear capabilities such as re-entry vehicle technology. Moreover, there are strong strategic-technological drivers for counterforce/damage limitation strategies, which in turn destabilize nuclear deterrence. For example, South Korea's 3-axis strategy has tried to deter North Korea by denial (missile defense) and by punishment (such as decapitation). North Korea has, in turn, responded by diversifying its nuclear arsenal – strategic, tactical, and various delivery systems – and, in 2022 codifying the preemptive use of nuclear weapons and delegating command and control in an emergency (as a countermeasure to decapitation). Alliance politics is another factor to spurs the arms race and destabilizes nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula. However rudimentary North Korea's nuclear capability may be, it has led many South Koreans to question the US extended deterrence and to seek new options for autonomous nuclear armament or 'nuclear sharing,' or at least for strengthening extended deterrence. From a US perspective, there is no way to demonstrate the US president's resolve, and 'over-reliance' on nuclear deterrence would only increase tensions with North Korea by provoking its military responses. This is exactly what happened in the July-August 2023 military showdowns between North Korea and the US-South Korea alliance. North Korea launched another ICBM; the US dispatched an SSBN submarine as a sign of the strengthening of extended deterrence, which was reciprocated by North Korea's missile launch. This is a vicious action reaction, a security dilemma. But, for the US, it is a rather reasonable price/inducement for restraining South Korea's independent nuclear armament and buying South Korea's cooperation with Japan and contribution to its Indo-Pacific strategy and Ukraine policy. Alliance politics by the US has pushed Japan to massively rearm against the threats from China and North Korea: in late 2022 Japan declared that it would increase its military spending to 2% of GDP, the third largest after the US and China. The US is now closely integrating its alliance with South Korea and with Japan. The Yoon Suk Yeol administration of South Korea has doubled down on the US and has begun to challenge China's policy on Taiwan. The US-Japan-South Korea (semi-) alliance would keep China and North Korea together, or at least keep China from abandoning North Korea. Two Koreas are also involved in the Russia-Ukraine War. South Korea, as a US ally, has participated in economic sanctions against Russia and has been asked to provide aid (including munitions) to Ukraine. The war provided North Korea an opportunity to enhance its diplomatic profile. North Korea was one of Russia's most consistent and committed supporters in the war. In desperate need of munitions, Russia has recently sought military and strategic cooperation with North Korea. The Putin-Kim summit in September 2023 represents a marriage of convenience between two arch enemies of the US, or 'pariahs,' ostracized by the US and its allies South Korea and Japan. Strategic cooperation between North Korea and Russia would prolong the war in Ukraine and tensions on the Korean Peninsula.