Too many cross currentsNorth Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sunday makes South Koreans feel more insecure than ever. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s vow to produce as many nuclear weapons as he wants poses a serious security threat to South Korea. In such a volatile situation, Defense Minister Song Young-moo mentioned the idea of bringing back U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear threat. But he added it’s not the government’s official position.
The United States’ extended deterrence encompasses not only its strategic nuclear weapons but also tactical weapons and precision-guided missiles. Scores of tactical weapons, which are stored on U.S. military bases in Guam, can arrive in the Korean Peninsula in a matter of hours at times of crisis. The problem is the reliability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. After Europe raised questions over its reliability, Uncle Sam had to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in five countries.
Redeployment of the tactical weapons can raise our trust in the United States and reinforce the traditional alliance. It also can serve as an effective card to put more pressure on China as it poses a security challenge to Beijing. If Seoul and Washington use this option well, it can help pressure Pyongyang to give up its relentless nuclear pursuit.
But after Defense Minister Song mentioned the possibility of redeploying tactical weapons, the Blue House and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied it. Examples of such cross currents are abundant. When North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea last month, the Blue House said they were shells from multiple-rocket launchers. We wonder why the government tries to downplay the threats rather than telling the truth.
At a press conference to mark 100 days in office, President Moon Jae-in defined the moment of North Korea loading nuclear warheads onto ICBMs as “crossing a red line.” The National Security Office (NSO) in the Blue House is crammed with pacifists bent on having dialogue with the rogue state. We urge Moon to fill the NSO with people capable of managing a national emergency.
We praise Moon’s achievement Monday in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump. The U.S. president agreed to lift the restriction on the payloads on our ballistic missiles. South Korea must use the opportunity to develop a powerful missile that can turn the North’s war command into ashes. We must have the capability to retaliate against the North’s provocations to discourage it from attacking us.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 6, Page 34