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S. Korea not mulling return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons: gov't

All Headlines 16:43 February 28, 2011

SEOUL, Feb. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has no plan to seek the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the peninsula, as Seoul remains committed to a 1991 denuclearization deal with Pyongyang, government officials said Monday.

"Our government is not considering a way to request that the U.S. redeploy its tactical nuclear weapons," a senior official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said on the condition of anonymity. "The joint declaration for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula remains valid."

He was reponding to a news report that Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, said that Washington would agree to the idea of redeploying tactical nuclear weapons if South Korea made an official request.

But Samore was quoted as adding that his comments represented nothing more than his personal view of the situation.

In a press briefing, Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung refused to comment on Samore's reported remarks.

"I am not in a position to reveal our country's position on a personal opinion by an official of a foreign nation," she said.

Asked if the inter-Korean denuclearization agreement remains valid, Kim said, "There has been no change in the principle."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae also said in a separate press briefing, "The (South Korean) government already expressed its position with regard to the issue of redeploying tactical nuclear weapons in the early 1990s and there is no change in it."

The subject of bringing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, relatively easy to carry and use, back to South Korea has long been something of a taboo here, as Seoul has tried to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program and improve bilateral relations.

The U.S. withdrew its tactical nuclear weapons in 1991 from the South as part of its disarmament initiative. The two Koreas then signed a landmark deal not to pursue any tests, production, possession, entry, deployment and use of nuclear weapons.

Some conservative South Korean lawmakers are calling for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons here amid North Korea's continued threats and provocations.

The North conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, respectively. After recently demanding talks with the U.S., Pyongyang reportedly warned of the possibility of a "nuclear disaster" on the peninsula.


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