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(LEAD) Conservative candidate vows more missile shields, joint management of U.S. nuke assets

2017/04/05 16:36

(ATTN: RECASTS lead paras to clarify Yoo's campaign pledge does not include deployment of U.S. nuclear arsenal in South Korea; UPDATES with additional information in paras 6-7)

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- Yoo Seong-min, the presidential nominee of the Bareun Party said Wednesday if elected he would upgrade the country's deterrence against North Korean threats by introducing more U.S. missile defense systems and pushing for joint operation of U.S. nuclear assets.

Laying out his security-related election pledges, the candidate of the splinter conservative party said that "currently, the United States single-handedly makes most decisions regarding its nuclear assets."

   "I will demand a higher level of cooperation (between Seoul and Washington) than the one between the U.S. and NATO through a summit and talks between defense and foreign ministers that will be held immediately after my inauguration and win the United States' concession," he said.

Yoo explained that a higher level of cooperation over U.S. nuclear capabilities will include the U.S. sharing or providing information on such capabilities and joint decisions on the possible use of such capabilities here.

Yoo Seong-min, a lawmaker and presidential candidate of the conservative Bareun Party, announces his security-related election pledges at party headquarters in Seoul on April 5, 2017. (Yonhap) Yoo Seong-min, a lawmaker and presidential candidate of the conservative Bareun Party, announces his security-related election pledges at party headquarters in Seoul on April 5, 2017. (Yonhap)

He also proposed devising manuals for joint military exercises involving the possible use of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. currently does not physically maintain nuclear capabilities on the Korean Peninsula as it withdrew its tactical nuclear weapons from the country in the early 1990s.

However, Washington frequently reaffirms that its Asian ally is under its nuclear umbrella, meaning it will bring such weapons here if and when necessary.

Yoo said he will also deploy additional units of the controversial U.S. air defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system or THAAD, at the country's own expense.

The U.S. Forces Korea is in the process of deploying one THAAD battery to Seongju, located some 300 kilometers south of Seoul.

The presidential contender said one or two more THAAD batteries would enable multi-layered defense and protection against North Korean missiles. He said he expected each additional THAAD unit to cost the country about 1 trillion won (US$890 million).

Yoo said he will gradually increase the country's defense budget to 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product from the current 2.4 percent if elected.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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