Saenuri calls for nuclear capability to deter the North

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Saenuri calls for nuclear capability to deter the North


Some lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party yesterday intensified their hardline stance on North Korea, calling on Seoul to establish its own nuclear deterrence capability to cope with the growing threat from Pyongyang.

“The only way to defend our survival would be to maintain a balance of terror that confronts nuclear with nuclear,” said Representative Shim Jae-cheol in a Supreme Council meeting held yesterday at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul.

Shim was referring to the North’s continued provocation against the South and the international community by conducting its third nuclear test last Tuesday, following its long-range missile launch in December.

“We will have to push forward with the measure of maintaining the South Korea-United States Combined Forces Command while redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons [that have been pulled out from South Korea],” he said, adding that the upcoming wartime operational control handover from the U.S. to South Korea should be postponed.

The maintenance of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command allows Washington to automatically intervene in the case of war.

Shim’s comments were made alongside what Representative Chung Mong-joon of the ruling party said last week, that it is time for South Korea to have its own nuclear deterrence capability.

Ever since the North’s nuclear weapons test, there has been a heated debate on whether South Korea should own a nuclear bomb and let go of its denuclearization policy to better cope with the changing security environment, although the government remains firm on the policy of maintaining a nuclear-free nation status.

Kim Jang-soo, who was recently nominated as head of the national security office for the incoming administration, had said that the matter of reassessing the security environment is a “sensitive” issue that cannot be handled easily.

“With the third nuclear test, North Korea has practically shown itself as a nuclear-armed country and the security environment [on the peninsula] has fundamentally changed,” Shim said.

Representative Yoo Ki-june also expressed concerns over security on the Korean Peninsula.

“If North Korea moves forward with an additional nuclear test, it will not be able to avoid the international society’s criticism and sanction measures,” Yoo said.

“There should now be a new form of effective pressure on North Korea.”

He added that there should be measures in regards to effective defense such as deploying tactical nuclear weapons, allowing preemptive strikes on critical targets and lifting the maximum limit on South Korean ballistic missiles.

Currently, Seoul can only launch missiles that go as far as 800 kilometers (497 miles).


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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