Back To Top

Seoul once mulled nuke armament, military action against NK: ex-FM

South Korea presented to the US the development of its own nuclear weapons and “physical action including military power” as part of its response to North Korea’s then upcoming first underground detonation in 2006, according to a former foreign minister.

In his new memoir, titled “Moving the Glacier,” Song Min-soon chronicled the decision-making process on sanctions, dialogue and other moves taken during the Roh Moo-hyun administration around the so-called first nuclear crisis in 2006 and afterward.

Dr. Baek Seon-ha of Seoul National University Hospital explains the medical records of Baek Nam-gi, an activist farmer who died last month nearly 10 months after being knocked out by a police water cannon, during a parliamentary audit session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. The doctor stuck to his view that the patient died of illness, not extrinsic trauma, as he wrote on the death certificate. Yonhap

Dr. Baek Seon-ha of Seoul National University Hospital explains the medical records of Baek Nam-gi, an activist farmer who died last month nearly 10 months after being knocked out by a police water cannon, during a parliamentary audit session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. The doctor stuck to his view that the patient died of illness, not extrinsic trauma, as he wrote on the death certificate. Yonhap
The 68-year-old retired career diplomat was the deputy representative to the four-nation talks in 1999 between the two Koreas, the US and China; the chief nuclear negotiator to the six-party denuclearization forum that also involved Japan and Russia in 2005; the head of unification, foreign and security policy at Cheong Wa Dae in 2006; and the foreign minister until 2008. After his retirement, he was a member of the National Assembly from 2008-2012 and now serves as the president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Three days after Pyongyang signaled its maiden nuclear test on Oct. 3, 2006, Washington circulated a draft of a UN Security Council resolution. Song, then with the presidential office, notified that should the North reject the allies’ reconciliation offer and conduct the explosion, Seoul would seek “strong sanctions” and have no option but to “nullify the (1991) inter-Korean denuclearization declaration,” suggesting the possibility of its own nuclear armament, he said in the book.

“At the same time, I thought we and the US should together consider physical action including military power if North Korea presses ahead with the nuclear test, and did explore its possibility,” the memoir reads.

“I believed we were able to meet North Korea’s demands to the extent of China’s consent, and to show the legitimacy for inevitable physical action if the North refused to discard its nuclear program nonetheless.”

Among the factors to be taken into account were whether Washington -- occupied with its “war on terror” in the Middle East -- would have the political will to mobilize its military forces against the North; whether the allies could take such a step in the face of Beijing’s opposition; and whether the South Koreans are prepared for an escalation that may evolve into an intensified clash.

Then President Roh and his counterpart George W. Bush had agreed on the “diplomacy first and military action later” principle during their summit in September 2006, Song noted.

He also depicted the discord between Roh and then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. During their meeting one month later, Rice said Pyongyang would not launch a nuclear attack and the more pressing matter at hand was the possibility of a transfer of fissile devices or materials to a third country or a terrorist organization.

Roh took issue with the view, saying the focus should be on how to make the regime abandon its nuclear program and that the US needed to “listen more carefully” to Seoul’s positions.

The former minister also criticized the decision to station the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system here, as well as the current hard-line approach that no dialogue is to be held unless Pyongyang forsakes its nuclear program.

“Once the THAAD system is deployed, not only South Korea and the US, but also China would not have the means to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile development,” he argued.

Song raised the need for “constructive ambiguity” in dealing with Pyongyang, saying that with denuclearization being the top priority, a lifting of sanctions should be offered after the country reports on its nuclear program, followed by the kickoff of desertion and inspection processes in tandem.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR
LATEST NEWS
Korea Herald daum
subscribe