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Bring back U.S. nukes, says Blue House report

Presidential advisory group gives advice, but president can ignore it

Oct 14,2016
A presidential advisory group on unification policy recommended the Park Geun-hye administration on Thursday bring back U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in order to stop North Korea’s continuing nuclear arms development.

Ahead of its overseas members’ meeting with President Park in the afternoon, the National Unification Advisory Council made public policy recommendations to address the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

While concentrating diplomatic capabilities on maintaining strong international alliances to sanction the North, the report recommended the government strengthen its military deterrence options.

“Seeking redeployment of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the South and permanent deployment of advanced strategic assets of the U.S. military in the South will pressure not only the North but also China to sanction the North,” it said.

The council cited the 1979 U.S. decision to deploy Pershing II nuclear missiles to Europe to counter the former Soviet Union’s SS-20 nuclear missiles. The two sides eventually signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987 to ban more than 2,600 nuclear missiles, a milestone in efforts to control nuclear arms. The U.S. deployment decision placed the Soviet Union on the defensive and eventually contributed to its collapse, the report said.

The council is a constitutional organization launched in 1980 to advise the president on unification policy. The report was written by experts on the council and was submitted to the Blue House last month.

The recommendation was the latest call for Seoul to consult with Washington to bring back tactical nuclear weapons following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test and continuing missile firings.

The United States first deployed nuclear-armed Honest John missiles and 280-millimeter atomic cannons to the South in 1958. More were later brought in. U.S. Forces Korea removed all after the two Koreas adopted the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992. Since then, Seoul and Washington maintain the position that the South has remained nuclear-arms-free, while the United States pledges a nuclear umbrella for its ally.

Last month, lawmakers started encouraging the government to bring back American tactical nuclear weapons. “We must not rule out any options including redeployment of the tactical nuclear weapons, nuclear development, a preemptive strike on the North’s nuclear facilities and bringing down the Kim Jong-un regime,” said Rep. Lee Cheol-woo of the Saenuri Party during a hearing on Sept. 21.

Another Saenuri lawmaker, Yoon Sang-hyun, said the South must warn the North that tactical nuclear weapons will be reintroduced if the North crosses a red line such as operational deployment of nuclear missiles.

Some members of the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea agreed. “The Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is now dead,” Rep. Kim Jin-pyo said. “Until the North dismantles its nuclear programs, tactical nuclear weapons should be redeployed conditionally.”

Earlier in September, Rep. Kim Chong-in, former leader of the Minjoo Party, also urged the Blue House and the leadership of the ruling and opposition parties to consider the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

Top Park administration officials, including Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Defense Minister Han Min-koo maintained the position that the government promotes a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

As its report started to stir controversy, a council official tried to downplay the significance. “It is a policy reference material that recorded that various discussions took place,” he told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It is not an official policy recommendation by the council.”

Professor Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University, a member of the council, told the JoongAng Ilbo that some advisors argued for the redeployment of the tactical nuclear weapons, but not everyone.

Meanwhile, President Park once again urged North Koreans to defect to the South. “I will open up all paths to the suffering North Korean residents to come to the South and realize their dreams and pursue happiness,” she said in a meeting with council members on Thursday.

Recently, Park has urged North Korean officials, soldiers and the general public to defect to the South.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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