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S. Korea needs to secure pre-emptive strike capability against NK: expert

Seoul needs to actively pursue pre-emptive strike capability to maintain a balance of power with North Korea amid escalating military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, an expert said Thursday.

“(South Korea) needs to actively pursue (measures) to secure various pre-emptive strike capabilities,” Choi Kang, vice president of research at the Seoul think-tank Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said at a forum. 

US President Donald Trump (Yonhap)
US President Donald Trump (Yonhap)

The expert highlighted the rogue regime’s growing missile development program fueled by its decadeslong nuclear ambition and South Korea’s current “insufficient defense capabilities” to counter the North’s provocations.

“It is nearly impossible for South Korea to secure (and develop) its own nuclear capabilities, so (Seoul) needs to draw and review measures that promotes the logic of ‘balance of terror’ -- which can be obtained through deployment of tactical nuclear weapons,” added Choi.

“Redeployment of tactical nuclear arms along with deployment of strategic assets will bring about a meaningful result.”

With North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3, the international community has grown increasingly alarmed over the North’s fast-developing weapons program.

The political sphere is divided over talks of greater militarization of South Korea in response to ongoing threats from the North.

In line with Choi’s remarks, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is stressing the need for a “nuclear balance of power” with Pyongyang to break down its “nuclear monopoly.”

Hong Joon-pyo, the chief of the main opposition party, renewed his call for the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons here Wednesday, ahead of his five-day trip to Washington.

“Only by deploying tactical (nuclear) weapons on South Korean territory can we negotiate with North Korea on an equal footing,” Hong said in an interview with CNN on Thursday.

“While the South Korea-US trade agreement is an economic alliance, we have to forge a nuclear alliance through the re-dispatching of tactical nukes so that we can prevent a war,” he said in a separate statement via Facebook.

CNN said that US President Donald Trump voiced support for the move during the US presidential campaign, while Republican Sen. John McCain said in September that Washington should consider plans to deploy nukes to South Korea.

But the Moon Jae-in administration has been making efforts to mend fences with Pyongyang and has deemed such ideas “virtually impossible.”

Unification Minster Cho Myung-kyun said Wednesday it is “virtually impossible” to redeploy such tactical weapons in the current situation, as the US is “extremely unlikely” to shift from its extended deterrence policy of providing its nuclear umbrella to allies toward fielding its own nukes.

“Redeploying tactical nuclear weapons is the same as acknowledging North Korea’s nuclear possession,” Cho said.

“It would be problematic if we deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons after recognizing its possession.”

Meanwhile, Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized Trump on his bellicose rhetoric against Pyongyang, which had sparked a “war-of-words” between him and the regime.

“Picking fights with Kim Jong-un just puts a smile on his face. It’s like picking fights with NATO and the EU which puts a smile on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s face,” said Clinton at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul on Wednesday.

“There is no need for us to be bellicose and aggressive (over North Korea),” she said.

The South Korean government has dismissed the idea of redeploying tactical nukes, which the US withdrew from the country in 1991. It has expressed its wish to uphold the nonproliferation principle. 

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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