A professor at a state-run think tank has suggested calling North Korea a "nuclear-armed state," a term which would acknowledge the country's nuke capabilities but not accept the legitimacy of its weapons possession.
"There is a need to draw a clear line between the objective fact on North Korea's nuclear (weapons) possession and the issue of the nuclear-weapon status," professor Jun Bong-geun at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said in his policy paper issued last week.
IFANS is a research arm of the state-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
Jun said the new term could differentiate North Korea from the five nuclear-weapons states whose nuclear programs have been legally permitted under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a global nonproliferation regime. The five countries are the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.
"I suggest calling countries with nuclear weapons nuclear-armed states," the professor said.
Professor Jun Bong-geun at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (Yonhap)
South Korea has been wary of calling North Korea a nuclear or nuclear-weapons state for fear that it could imply accepting North Korea as a virtual nuke state and thus change the US' policy goal toward the North from denuclearization to nonproliferation.
"Calling North Korea a nuclear-armed state would never imply overlooking the illegitimacy and illegality of North Korea's nuclear armament," Jun said, also suggesting another alternative term, "illegal nuclear-armed state," for the regime.
The new terms "would provide the awareness of North Korea being nuclear armed and have the effect of highlighting the need to denuclearize the country and bolster military countermeasures (against the North)," he noted.
Having conducted five nuclear tests, the North has declared itself a nuclear country in its constitution in a bid to raise its negotiating power with the outside world.
The Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean issues, dismissed the suggestion as not representing the government's stance.
"The government basically maintains its stance to denuclearize North Korea," a ministry official said. "North Korea should drop any provocations, including its intention to possess nuclear weapons."
He said using the proposed terms would only give North Korea what it wants, which is the kind of nuclear status enjoyed by India and Pakistan. (Yonhap)