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Moon's security advisor restates need to mull reducing allied drills in return for N.K. nuke freeze

2017/09/14 16:49

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SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in's security advisor on Thursday reiterated his "personal" opinion that South Korea needs to consider scaling back its military drills with the United States in return for North Korea's nuclear freeze, saying all options should remain open.

During a peace forum, Moon Chung-in, professor at Seoul's Yonsei University, also dismissed growing opposition calls for Seoul to seek the redeployment of U.S. tactical nukes here, stressing a peaceful resolution through dialogue is "the best way" to go.

The advisor made a series of peace proposals amid cross-border tensions that have been heightened by Pyongyang's two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date on Sept. 3.

But he struck a cautious note, saying the proposals are his "scholarly" views. In June, he came under fire for floating the idea of reducing South Korea-U.S. military exercises in return for the North's moratorium on its nuclear and missile activities -- a claim the presidential office dismissed as his "personal" view.

"It would be possible to seek dialogue on the condition that the North would freeze its nuclear activities, but the claim that dialogue is possible only when the North denuclearizes itself is a difficult demand.... We need a realistic approach," Moon said.

Moon Chung-in (2nd from R), President Moon Jae-in's security advisor, speaks during a peace forum at the National Assembly in Seoul on Sept. 14, 2017. (Yonhap) Moon Chung-in (2nd from R), President Moon Jae-in's security advisor, speaks during a peace forum at the National Assembly in Seoul on Sept. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

"If the freeze (on the military drills in exchange for the North's nuclear freeze) is difficult, we can explore the possibility of scaling back (the joint military exercises)," he added, noting that his view does not represent that of the government.

The scholar, then, objected to the demand from conservative parties that Seoul should explore nuclear options such as developing its own nukes; redispatching U.S. tactical nukes, which were withdrawn from here in 1991; or sharing control of U.S. nuclear arms under a deal similar to Washington's arrangements with some of its NATO allies such as Germany, Italy and Belgium.

"I think it is difficult for South Korea to possess nuclear arms, as it might face the same variety of sanctions as the North has," he said.

"The tactical nuke card has the potential to rather escalate the nuclear crisis.... The idea of sharing control of nukes is also impossible as chances are zero that the U.S. would sign a separate accord with the South for it," he added.

Showing his penchant for diplomatic options, Moon proposed that major countries in Northeast Asia pursue a framework of multilateral security cooperation and stressed the need for nuclear states to guarantee a no-nuclear-use principle for their non-nuclear neighbors.