Redeploy the tactical weapons

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Redeploy the tactical weapons

The argument that South Korea should have nuclear weapons has gained momentum ever since North Korea conducted its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. In a special session of the National Assembly last week, former chairman of the ruling Grand National Party Chung Mong-joon insisted that the government request that the U.S. military in Korea redeploy tactical nuclear weapons here. Other lawmakers went so far as to assert that we should develop our own nuclear weapons.

Against this backdrop, a recent remark by Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, particularly attracts our attention. He said that Washington would agree to the idea of redeploying tactical nuclear weapons if South Korea made an official request.

Considering the North’s constant threats to use nuclear weapons and bring about a “nuclear disaster” on the Korean Peninsula, discussions on the issue seem perfectly natural and timely. But it is not desirable for politicians to express their diverging opinions in a public forum.

First, it is not certain that North Korea will wage nuclear war on the peninsula, as it knows well that the moment it does, it must face a horrendous counterattack from the U.S. Second, championing our own nuclear weapons - based on our nuclear sovereignty - also lacks rationale as the current nonproliferation regime is still a reality despite some countries’ criticism on the grounds of its unfairness.

If Korea, an exemplary trading country, negates this grim reality and enters a risk-ridden nuclear competition, it will have more to lose than gain, let alone various possible sanctions like the ones North Korea and Libya have suffered.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said that the government has no intention to request that Washington redeploy the weapons.

But the Lee Myung-bak administration should now fully reexamine its position on the issue. At a time when diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea seem to have ended in failure - and when the North desperately seeks its coveted nuclear power status - we urgently need a means to counter the nuclear threats from Pyongyang in a substantial way.

As the U.S. government welcomes the idea of redeployment, our government must now officially ask Washington to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons in the South.
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