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S. Korea should consider nuke armament option: expert

2017/01/17 12:07

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) – There should be a policy review of South Korea's nuclear armament option in response to North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats, according to a professor at a Ministry of Foreign Affairs-run think tank on Tuesday.

"(South Korea) is required to carry out an in-depth review of military countermeasures along with tougher diplomacy aimed at denuclearizing North Korea, given the North's absolute supremacy in military power that comes with its completion of nuclear armament," said Jun Bong-geun, who lectures at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, in a report on Korean security analysis for 2017.

The professor also cited more frequent nuclear threats from the North and prospects of permanent separation of the two Koreas and potential nuclear war as reasons for his claim.

"On the back of the North's increasing nuclear capabilities, (South Korea) is facing growing calls for its own nuclear armament," Jun said. "In order to effectively respond to such controversies at home, there needs to be a policy study on the option of nuclear armament, including reviews of technical feasibility and political and diplomatic costs associated with acquiring nuclear weapons."

   North Korea's frequent tests of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and longer-range missiles last year sparked calls from the conservative block here for Seoul's own development of nukes.

The government, however, has ruled out such possibilities, citing its international commitment for nonproliferation.

The professor said Seoul has a growing need for military capabilities to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons in a preventive war, launch pre-emptive attacks on North Korea's nuclear facilities or intercept long-range North Korean missiles if they are fired, all because of Pyongyang's fast-advancing nuclear capabilities.

"Having conducted two nuclear tests in 2016 and 24 missile test launches, the North's nuclear armament is believed to become operational as of early 2017," Jun assessed.

"Going forward, North Korea is predicted to accelerate the production of additional nuclear materials in a bid to acquire the capability to launch a secondary nuclear retaliation attack in the shortest time possible," he said. Along the line, the North may also expedite production of sophisticated nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles and SLBM capabilities, he added.

Jun also urged dramatic expansion of South Korea's diplomacy and security policy capabilities and personnel so the country can take the lead in responding to North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Jun's report does not officially represent the South Korean government, and the report was written after a seminar with academics in think tanks, held earlier in the month.

pbr@yna.co.kr

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