President Moon Jae-in on Thursday dismissed the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons to South Korea, amid growing public support in the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test earlier in the month.
“I do not agree that South Korea needs to develop our own nuclear weapons or relocate tactical nuclear weapons in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat,” Moon said in an interview with CNN.
“To respond to North Korea by having our own nuclear weapons will not maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula and could lead to a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia,” he added.
Moon did accept, however, that the ROK needed “to develop our military capabilities in the face of North Korea’s nuclear advancement.”
Since Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test on September 3, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party has called for the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
John McCain, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, on Sunday also called for Seoul to consider it as a deterrent, in an interview with CNN.
“The Korean defense minister just a few days ago called for nuclear weapons to be redeployed,” McCain said, adding he thought “it ought to be seriously considered.”
South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-mo earlier in the month said that redeployment was “worth reviewing,” in a statement to the National Assembly’s Defense Committee.
“I expect a strong demand, but that is the matter which should be deeply examined from the perspective of the denuclearization issue between the South and the U.S., international relations, and North Korea issues,” Song said, when asked if further North Korean testing would change his mind. “It could be one alternative.”
Song, however, later told lawmakers that he was “not reviewing” redeployment at a parliamentary hearing held on Tuesday.
First Vice Chief of National Security Office (NSO) Lee Sang-chul reiterated on Tuesday that the Moon Jae-in government had “never reviewed the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons” and that Seoul’s opposition to the policy had not changed.
“Political circles and media can raise the issue of the redeployment of the tactical nuclear weapons as one of the countermeasures to deal with North Korean nuclear and missile threats,” Lee told media. “But there are many problems if we do from the perspective of the government.”
Lee said the move would “violate the basic principle of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn from the Republic of Korea under the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula pact agreed between the North and the South in 1991 and signed in January the next year.
“There is a concern that [the decision] could weaken or lose the justification of [achieving] the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through the discard of the North Korean nuclear weapons, which we are pursuing,” Lee told media.
A recent survey by Gallup Korea said that 60% out of 1004 South Korean respondents agreed with the country having its own nuclear weapons, with 35% opposed.
Featured Image: Blue House
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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