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South Korean Lawmaker Calls For Independent Nuclear-Weapon Capability

A senior South Korean legislator from the ruling party on Sunday called for his country to develop the capacity to wield an independent strategic deterrent, the Dong-a-Ilbo newspaper reported (see GSN, May 21).

"North Korea’s declaration as a nuclear power in its constitution means that the North no longer intends to consider the dismantlement of nuclear weapons as a subject for negotiations. We need a comprehensive re-examination of our security policy," said Representative Chung Mong-joon, a one-time chairman of the Saenuri Party who is seeking the South Korean presidency (see GSN, June 1).

"Peace cannot be secured without the balance of fear or nuclear weapon for nuclear weapon," Chung said, continuing, "Even if (South Korea) doesn't possess its own nuclear weapons immediately, it should secure the capability to possess them."

Previously, Chung had urged only the refielding of U.S. tactical nuclear arms, which were removed from the South in the early 1990s. Under a December 1991 accord,  Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to jointly pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"The declaration of a nuclear-free Korean-Peninsula was effectively discarded due to the North's nuclear weapons development. It is the duty of the next [South Korean] administration to declare a commitment (to possess nuclear weapons) and gradually take steps one by one," Chung said (Dong-a-Ilbo, June 4).

Ex-U.S. Undersecretary for Defense Policy Morton Halperin told the Korea Herald that it would be a mistake to place nuclear weapons in South Korea.

The House of Representatives in May approved a bill that calls for the repositioning of nonstrategic nuclear arms in the Western Pacific as a deterrent to North Korea.

"The Republican Party has always had a romance with tactical nuclear weapons. They have always seen them as a way to reduce the need for manpower and to reduce the size of the budget," the Open Society Foundation senior adviser said.

"It is a foolish idea. I don't think there is any chance that this administration will do it, and I don't think there is any chance any future administrations will," he said, continuing it was "[then-Republican President] George Bush who took the nuclear weapons out of not only Korea but all of Asia."

While the Lee Myung-bak administration has shown no interest in having U.S. nuclear weapons redeployed on the peninsula, his government has been prodding Washington to allow South Korea to develop longer-range ballistic missiles than those permitted under a bilateral pact (see GSN, May 17).

Seoul currently may not produce ballistic missiles with ranges farther than 186 miles or that can carry warheads weighing in excess of 1,100 pounds.

Halperin said it would be difficult for South Korea to convince the United States to allow it to develop extended-range high-altitude missiles.

“It is going to be difficult. I think the issue of Korea deciding that it uses a nuclear option to deal with North Korea is a potentially most explosive issue in the relationship between the U.S. and Korea,” he said. “I think we need to find a creative way to deal with it including continuing to make efforts to persuade North Korea to denuclearize" (Song Sang-ho, Korea Herald, June 4).



Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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