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Saenuri wants a nuclear South

Opposition lawmakers call this ‘dangerous,’ seek other solutions

Sept 13,2016
Saenuri Party Rep. Won Yoo-chul, third from left, speaks at an emergency meeting of ruling party lawmakers seeking to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Monday, attended by National Defense Minister Han Min-koo, center. A group of 31 Saenuri lawmakers released a statement calling for South Korea’s nuclear armament as a measure to deter North Korea’s provocations. [PARK JONG-GEUN]
South Korea should consider nuclear armament to deter against Pyongyang’s continued provocations, lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party said following an emergency meeting at the National Assembly on Monday.

“In order to protect peace,” Rep. Won Yoo-chul, a former floor leader of the party, said during the session attended by the defense chief, “we also need to consider all measures to deter North Korea’s provocations, including nuclear armament for the purpose of self-defense.”

Won also said, “With North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, its nuclear weapons have taken a stride toward posing an actual threat to South Korean people,” adding that “a nuclear crisis was developing” as Pyongyang has ignored international sanctions and went ahead with the latest test.

The group, which calls itself the “Nuclear Forum,” initially comprised 23 Saenuri lawmakers but is gaining in number.

Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo and Shin Beom-chul, the Foreign Ministry’s director-general for policy planning, also participated in this session, led by Won.

The group of 31 Saenuri lawmakers went on to release a statement condemning the North’s fifth nuclear test and called for “all possible means, including nuclear armament, to protect the safety of the South Korean people.” It also proposed to form a bipartisan special committee of the National Assembly to prevent further nuclear tests by North Korea.

The statement went on to say that the new parliamentary special committee “should seek realistic measures to deter North Korea’s additional nuclear provocations, including our own independent nuclear capability.”

“North Korea followed its fourth nuclear test this year,” said Han during the meeting, “by disregarding the international community’s sanctions and launching ballistic missiles and its SLBM, and then it went through with its fifth nuclear test. What North Korea’s Kim Jong-un regime can earn from its nuclear arms development is stronger sanctions from the international community and further isolation, as well as self-destruction.”

Following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test on Friday, some Saenuri lawmakers immediately renewed their call for the South’s nuclear armament as the most effective means of countering Pyongyang’s provocations.

“We have to mobilize all means, we have to be fully ready to show that North Korea’s provocations are futile,” ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Lee Jung-hyun told reporters at the War Memorial of Korea in central Seoul on Sunday.

He added that the government and political sphere has to “deliberate a much stronger level of response to North Korea’s provocations.”

When asked if this included nuclear weapons, he replied, “There is a voice amongst experts and the people [about South Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons] so I wanted to bring it to attention. My personal conviction is very strong.”

“Very dangerous remarks are being circulated,” said Park Jie-won, acting head of the minor opposition People’s Party, about Lee’s response on Monday. “Some people are making dangerous remarks calling for the nuclear armament of South Korea. The ruling party chairman comes forward and makes such claims, which is an irresponsible remark that can take the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.”

But the call for the South’s nuclear armament is not simply divided between parties, as various experts and politicians are weighing in on the issue amid Pyongyang’s rising nuclear and missile threat.

Kim Chong-in, the former interim leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party, who has supported the nuclear armament of South Korea, posted Monday on his Facebook account, “In order to alleviate the anxiety of the people, we need to review deployment again of the U.S. Forces Korea’s tactical nuclear weapons.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joognang.co.kr]


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