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Seoul needs more control over security to prevent nuke armament: scholars

All Headlines 17:06 March 11, 2016

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- Growing calls for South Korea's nuclear armament should be addressed in the long-term by restoring Seoul's control over its security and diplomatic matters, two prominent American scholars said.

In a column contributed to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum, a program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and David Santoro, senior fellow of the CSIS, made the claim, adding that Washington's key ally needs to be kept informed.

The scholars said that until recently, the U.S. handled most matters and consulted with its ally on an "ad hoc basis," which left South Koreans mostly on the receiving end of U.S. decisions. "Frustration" thus grew among South Koreans amid rising nuclear threats, they noted.

Commenting on the failure to alter North Korea's provocative behavior, they said neither Seoul's pro-engagement attempts nor hard-line policies have been successful.

They also noted that the "apparent fecklessness" of Washington's policy toward Pyongyang, dubbed "strategic patience," and China's reluctance to apply pressure have unnerved South Koreans struggling to find a way to address the North's nuclear blackmail.

They proposed that Seoul take advantage of its much-trumpeted foreign policy drive, called the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), to tackle the North Korean issue and allow South Koreans to feel that they lead their own security agenda.

Park has been pushing for the NAPCI to build multilateral trust to address the "Asia Paradox," in which regional political and security cooperation is weak, despite deepening socioeconomic interdependence.

"Seoul should now steer the initiative toward addressing the North Korean problem. While it probably can't solve it, this will make South Koreans feel that they are in control, rather than dependent on U.S. and Chinese decisions," the column said.

"Middle powers may be bound to accept greater powers' policy choices, but they can and should influence these choices."

The scholars, however, said that there would be a challenge facing the U.S. should its small ally have a greater leadership role -- with greater autonomy in the handling of the communist state's military threats.

"Giving Seoul greater freedom to act militarily against Pyongyang can lead to inadvertent escalation and drag Washington into the fight," the column said. "It could also be misinterpreted by Pyongyang as a weakening of U.S. defense commitments to Seoul."

This is the reason why the U.S. needs a "more sophisticated" strategy and a clearer understanding of why American allies are tempted to pursue nuclear arms.

"Without that (strategy), U.S. allies may one day go nuclear, with South Korea leading the pack," the column warned.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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