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Seoul to consider redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said Monday that South Korea would consider the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in consultation with Washington as one of the options to deal with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

His comment followed a report that the North showed a new uranium enrichment plant purportedly with some 2,000 centrifuges installed and running to Siegfried Hecker, a U.S. scientist who visited the communist state earlier this month.

“We will review (the redeployment) when (Korea and the U.S.) meet to consult on the matter at a committee for nuclear deterrence,” Kim said during a parliamentary committee session.

He was referring to the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee that is to serve as a cooperation channel between the two allies to improve the effectiveness of the extended deterrence, which means enhanced U.S. nuclear commitment for its ally. 
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young (Yonhap News)
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young (Yonhap News)

At the 42nd Security Consultative Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 8, Defense Minister Kim and his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates agreed to establish the special committee.

“We will closely discuss that after organizing the committee. We will conscientiously prepare ourselves regarding this matter with both having serious concerns,” said Kim.

“The Seoul government is closely cooperating with the U.S. in terms of intelligence sharing. So, (the revelation of the new uranium enrichment facility) did not come as a sudden surprise to us.”

Later in the day, the Ministry of National Defense said in a press release that the government has never considered the redeployment, and that there has not been any concrete consultation yet over the matter between the two countries.

With the North abruptly conducting nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, citizens here have voiced concerns over how to deal with the North’s asymmetric weapons. Some scholars have called for the redeployment of U.S. tactical weapons as a counterbalance against the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush announced in September 1991 that the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons would be withdrawn from the peninsula as well as other overseas installations.

The redeployment does not appear to be easy as it runs counter to the current Obama administration’s vision of a “nuclear-free world.”

It was the first time for the U.S. to agree on founding the standing cooperative committee concerning the extended deterrence with its ally except for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

By Song Sang-ho (