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LKP big wig calls for nuclear arms in South

July 30,2019
A high-ranking lawmaker of South Korea’s main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) called on Seoul to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons from the United States, saying neighboring countries wouldn’t have “looked down on us” recently had the South been nuclear-armed.

Rep. Cho Kyoung-tae, a four-term lawmaker who’s a member of the LKP’s Supreme Council, the party’s main decision-making group, said during a Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Monday that South Korea needed U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to “stand up against” Russia, China and North Korea.

“President [Moon Jae-in] must hold negotiations with the United States on this matter,” Cho urged. “If Washington refuses Seoul’s proposal to redeploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, then Seoul must leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] and develop nuclear weapons on its own.”

Five-term LKP Rep. Won Yoo-chul, who heads the party’s special committee on North Korean nuclear weapons, diplomacy and national security, said Sunday that 80 percent of the South Korean public supported the redeployment of U.S. tactical weapons, and that the figure should not be “taken lightly.” He did not reveal his source for these statistics.

Washington introduced tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea in 1958 following the 1950-53 Korean War, but they were entirely removed from South Korean soil in 1991, after both countries jointly declared their vision for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea has since been protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, which ensures the South will be protected with nuclear weapons when in need.

Calls from the National Assembly, especially from the LKP, to reintroduce U.S. tactical nuclear weapons aren’t new and tend to come when tensions in the region rise.

On July 23, a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft violated the part of Korea’s national airspace over Dokdo in the East Sea twice during a combined aerial operation with China. Earlier that morning, two Chinese H-6 jet bombers and two Russian TU-95 strategic bombers entered Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone (Kadiz) multiple times, all without giving any prior notice to Seoul.

Last Thursday, North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, after which it said through its state-run media that the tests were a “solemn warning” to Seoul to stop a scheduled combined military exercise with the United States.

Yet some other LKP lawmakers cautiously told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday that the party probably won’t make it its official stance for South Korea to redeploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons or self-develop nuclear weapons, primarily because Washington is opposed to such ideas.

“U.S. President Donald Trump showed how different Seoul and Washington’s thoughts about North Korea’s recent missile launches were by claiming they were ‘very standard weapons,’” said LKP Rep. Kim Young-woo. “Now’s the time for strengthening the South Korea-U.S. alliance, not talking about the nuclear armament issue, which the United States is against.”

BY SUNG JI-WON, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]