U.S. arms control chief backs nuke redeployment

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U.S. arms control chief backs nuke redeployment


Gary Samore

The Obama administration’s weapons of mass destruction policy czar said he believed Washington would accept Seoul’s request if it asks for the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, adding momentum to growing arguments by local conservative politicians that their redeployment would deter North Korea.

Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, discussed his personal opinions with the JoongAng Ilbo on Saturday during a seminar hosted at Tufts University outside Boston.

He said he was well aware of the remarks made by senior members of the ruling Grand National Party, who argued on Friday that the U.S. should reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons in the South to protect the country against a military threat from the North.

Tactical nuclear weapons are designed to be used to attack battlefield military targets and include nuclear-tipped short-range missiles, artillery shells, land mines and torpedoes.

All U.S. tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn from the South by 1991. The two Koreas adopted the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula the following year, committing themselves not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.

While Washington has not begun official discussion of the issue, the U.S. would say “yes” if Seoul made a formal request, Samore said. He emphasized that it was natural for Washington to accept a request made by a key ally.

Samore’s remarks were the first time a senior policy maker in the U.S. government has mentioned the possibility of reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons after the issue was discussed in the South following the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November.

At the time, then-Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young told the National Assembly that the government would consider the possible return of tactical nuclear arms, but he retracted the statement a day later after the Pentagon denied the possibility.

Samore said that even if the weapons were redeployed, it would only have a symbolic and political meaning, not military significance, because current U.S. nuclear capabilities near the South, including submarines and weapons deployed at overseas bases, are already more than enough to protect the South.

If redeployment takes place, the amount of the weapons that would be based in the South would be small, he said.

Samore said China would use every possible diplomatic leverage to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear arms programs in order to prevent the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, arguing that Beijing may cut off all economic assistance to the North.

Asked if the redeployment would run counter to U.S. President Barack Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, Samore said it would not because Washington would withdraw the weapons as soon as the goal of denuclearizing North Korea is achieved.

He said redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons was completely up to the South Korean government, speculating that there was a low possibility of Seoul making such a request.

The U.S. special envoy to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, however, told the JoongAng Ilbo that the possible return of tactical nuclear weapons to the South was a bad idea.

The Blue House refused to comment on Samore’s remarks, while the ruling and opposition parties had different reactions.

The South Korean government’s official position has been the denuclearization of both Koreas.

“Although Seoul and Washington had no previous discussion on the return of tactical nuclear weapons, it is an important national security issue, so we need to find out the background of Samore’s remarks,” a senior Blue House official said.

Representative Chung Mong-joon, former chairman of the Grand National Party, yesterday urged the two countries to talk about the idea. “It is rather belated,” he said. “Instead of an ambiguous nuclear umbrella, redeployment of the tactical nuclear weapons would be a negotiation card.”

He also said the redeployment would be an important tool to press the Chinese leadership and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

GNP Representative Won Yoo-chul, who heads the legislature’s National Defense Committee, agreed.

“We should allow the redeployment in order to force China and Russia to actively participate in the efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear aspirations,” he said.

Representative Chung Ok-nim of the GNP also said the redeployment would be a strategic move and not make South Korea a nuclear-armed country.

“Tactical nuclear weapons were deployed in the Netherlands and Belgium, although they are not nuclear-armed nations,” she said.

The liberal opposition Democratic Party yesterday asked both Koreas to remain calm.

“I seriously warn the North to stop hostile words and actions threatening inter-Korean peace,” DP Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu said. “It is also inappropriate for the government and ruling party to create a crisis on the Korean Peninsula by talking about [...] the possible return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons at this sensitive time.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[중앙일보]
새모어 백악관 군축·비확산 조정관 “북핵에 맞선 상징적 의미”

미국 백악관 게리 새모어(Gary Samore·사진) 대량살상무기(WMD) 정책조정관은 26일 (현지시간) “한국이 미국에 전술핵무기 재배치를 공식 요구한다면 미국은 응할 것”이라고 말했다. 새모어 조정관은 이날 미 터프츠대가 주최한 ‘대북 대응’ 세미나에서 기자와 만나 사견을 전제로 이같이 밝혔다. 새모어는 미 행정부의 군축·비확산·대테러 업무를 총괄하는 인사다.

그는 전날 정몽준 전 한나라당 대표가 1991년 국내에서 철수된 미국의 전술핵을 재배치할 필요가 있다고 주장한 데 대해 “그 발언 사실을 잘 알고 있다”며 “전술핵 재배치 문제에 대한 미국의 입장은 정해진 것이 없지만 한국 정부가 재배치를 공식 요구한다면 미국은 ‘예스’라고 말할 것으로 확신한다”고 말했다.

이어 “미국의 동맹국인 한국이 북한의 핵개발로 안보 위협을 느껴 전술핵 재배치를 요구한다면 미국이 응하는 것이 당연하다”고 강조했다. 미국의 고위 인사가 전술핵 재배치 가능성을 언급한 것은 처음이다.

새모어는 “현재 미국은 핵잠수함이나 해외 미군기지 등 한반도 인근의 (핵)전력으로 한국을 충분히 방어할 수 있어 전술핵 재배치는 군사적인 것이 아니라 상징적·정치적 의미가 될 것”이라고 말했다. 그러면서 “(재배치가 이뤄질 경우) 전술핵의 양은 적을 것”이라며 “한반도 철수 직전인 90년대 초 공중 발사용으로 항공기에 적재됐던 분량 정도일 수 있다”고 설명했다.

그는 중국의 반발 가능성에 대해 “중국은 미국의 전술핵 재배치를 막기 위해 모든 외교적 지렛대를 동원해 북한의 핵개발을 억누르려 할 것”이라며 “대북 경제원조를 전면 중단할 수도 있다”고 주장했다. 버락 오바마(Barack Obama) 미 대통령이 추진해온 ‘핵 없는 세계’ 정책에 배치되는 것 아니냐는 지적에 대해선 “미국의 전술핵은 (북한 비핵화라는) 목표가 달성되면 즉시 뺄 수 있는 것”이라고 일축했다.

새모어 조정관은 “미국의 전술핵 재배치는 전적으로 한국 정부의 결정에 달린 것”이라며 “현재는 한국 내에서 재배치에 대해 합의가 이뤄지지 않아 한국 정부가 그런 (재배치 요구) 결정을 할 가능성은 낮다고 본다”고 내다봤다. 북한 핵문제에 대해선 “북한은 80년대 초 함께 핵개발을 시작한 이란보다 동기·능력에서 앞서 있고 비확산 협정을 어기는 데 세계기록을 보유한 가장 거친(toughest) 국가”라며 북한 핵이 이란 핵보다 시급한 문제임을 지적했다. 이어 “오바마 행정부는 ‘핵 없는 세계’를 위해 비핵 국가에 핵 보복을 하지 않겠다고 선언했지만, 북한과 이란 등은 그 대상에서 제외했다”고 강조했다.

그는 “오바마 행정부는 ‘선 남북대화, 후 6자회담’ 원칙을 고수하고 있다”며 “특히 오바마 대통령은 이명박 대통령에게 직접 이 원칙을 다짐(commit)했다”고 강조했다.  

보스턴=강찬호 기자

◆전술핵=핵로켓포, 핵지뢰, 핵어뢰 등을 말한다. 탑재·운반이 쉬워 전장에서 근거리 군사 목표물을 공격하는 데 사용한다. 상대 국가의 인구 밀집 지역을 초토화해 전쟁 능력을 없애는 전략 핵무기와 구별된다. 한국에는 91년까지 군산 미군기지에 배치됐었다. 미·소 간 핵군축협정에선 사거리 500㎞ 이하 핵무기로 정의된 바 있다.
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