DP members join chorus calling for U.S. nukes

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DP members join chorus calling for U.S. nukes

Some members of the ruling Democratic Party called to redeploy U.S. tactical nukes on Thursday, as President Moon Jae-in struggles to find common ground between China and Russia concerning an oil embargo on the Pyongyang regime in response to its latest nuclear test.

The party, which essentially championed dialogue and engagement with North Korea, in line with Moon’s inter-Korean peace vision, has yet to make it their official stance to redeploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons after more than 25 years.

But the voices persisted even as the Blue House stressed Tuesday, two days after North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test, that deploying U.S. tactical nukes is not an option in the allies’ playbook.

A tactical nuclear weapon, which is designed to be used against battlefield targets, generally travels across short ranges and carries a low-yield warhead.

A strategic nuclear weapon, on the other hand, has a high-yield warhead, travels far distances and is aimed at military bases or a city in a premeditated war plan.

Washington removed all tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in September 1991, when both countries jointly declared their vision for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea has since been protected by the United States’ nuclear umbrella, which ensures the South will be protected with nuclear weapons when in need.

“South Korea’s North Korea policy can be divided into before and after the sixth nuclear test,” said DP Rep. Jung Sung-ho. “That’s how shocking this test was to our political landscape.”

Jung said the time has arrived for Seoul to consider an “all-out” change to its North Korea policy.

“Dialogue is only possible when both sides have a somewhat similar level of power,” he said, “but that balance [between the two Koreas] has completely shattered.”

He added, “Would the public accept if we kept yearning for inter-Korean talks, when the North continues to provoke with missiles and bombs?”

DP Rep. Lee Jong-kul echoed Jung’s sentiment, saying the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons would be “leverage for dialogue” with Pyongyang. Lee said that Seoul would have to keep the arms until Pyongyang scraps its own nuclear development program.

The North has stressed many times that neither its nukes nor missiles are negotiable.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party(LKP), meanwhile, said Thursday it would send a delegation to the United States next week to check whether Washington officials actually have the will to provide tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.

If they do not, LKP chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo said, “We will have to search for our own new way to deal with North Korean nukes.”

Upon completing his trip to the United States, Hong mentioned he was planning to visit China, saying “talks have almost been settled” with Beijing for his tour.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, YOO SUNG-WOON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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