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Ex-U.S. defense secretary against nuclear options to defend S. Korea, Japan

2017/12/06 05:44

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(ATTN: CORRECTS headline, Perry's remarks in paras 1-3)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- William Perry, a former U.S. defense secretary, on Tuesday expressed skepticism toward the options of nuclear deployment or armament in South Korea and Japan as a deterrence against North Korea's growing threat.

Perry, who served in President Bill Clinton's administration from 1994-1997, made the comment as calls to redeploy U.S. tactical nukes to South Korea have grown, especially among the country's conservative political parties, amid North Korea's repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

"I do not think it is either desirable or necessary to deploy (U.S.) nuclear weapons again in South Korea or in Japan," he told a forum here. "I do think, however, it is preferable to those countries getting an independent nuclear force."

   Last week the communist regime launched what it claimed to be a new and highly advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the entire U.S. mainland.

Perry said the U.S. should first provide "solid reassurance" to both allies that its commitment to extended deterrence is "real and will be honored."

   "If we can do that, then over time we will work with North Korea to stop them from getting a nuclear arsenal," he said. "I don't see that happening today. I think we have to stabilize the situation with our allies first."

   While Perry was in office, the U.S. and North Korea signed an agreement to halt the regime's nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic aid. The deal later fell through.

Talks with Pyongyang are still useful, Perry said, but only with lowered expectations.

North Korea cannot be expected to give up its nuclear arsenal readily, although it might happen over time, so talks should aim to lower the risk of an accidental war, according to the former secretary.

The U.S. should initially propose a freeze on nuclear and missile testing in exchange for economic and security assurances, such as building on the now-shuttered inter-Korean industrial park in North Korea's border city of Kaesong, he added.

hague@yna.co.kr

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