SEOUL – The continued build-up of a “non-regional” military presence in Northeast Asia and nuclear forces in South Korea is “unacceptable,” a high-ranking member of the Russian government said on Wednesday.
The comments follow months of increased tensions between North and South Korea, frequent U.S.-led military exercises in or around the Korean Peninsula, and a U.S. nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile test.
“We object to the use of North Korean nuclear-missile undertakings as a pretext for a mass build-up of non-regional military presence in Northeast Asia,” Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.
“‘Pumping’ the region with new weapons and other activities obviously [goes] beyond neutralizing the threat Northerners can pose,” Patrushev said.
Patrushev also hit out at a growing trend amongst conservatives in Seoul calling for the nuclearization of South Korea in response to North Korean threats.
“We also think the prospect of a ‘second advent’ of nuclear weapons to the south of the Korean Peninsula – be it the return of foreign tactical missiles or development by South Korea of their own ones – is unacceptable,” Patrushev told Interfax in Moscow.
Chung Mong-joon, a conservative Saenuri Party politician called on South Korea to develop its own nuclear deterrence, speaking at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference this April.
In March, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the U.S. would bolster missile defenses in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by Pyongyang, a move that forced Washington to reiterate that its missiles were not “aimed” at China or Russia.
U.S. ground-based nuclear deterrence is delievered by the “Minuteman III” intercontinental ballistic missile and, like North Korean short-range rockets, is tested regularly. During U.S.-South Korean joint exercises in March, Washington ordered “routine” B-52 flights, causing Pyongyang to significantly increase its bellicose rhetoric.
The date for a recent Minuteman III test was rescheduled from its original slot over fears the launch could be “misconstrued” by North Korea, a dispatch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base said before launch.
A recent spate of joint exercises and tests by the U.S. military was picked up North Korean state media in a series of articles last week.
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