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Debate heats up over S. Korea's nuclear armament

All News 19:59 July 26, 2016

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korean experts in Seoul engaged in a heated debate on Tuesday over whether South Korea should also pursue nuclear armament to counter Pyongyang's ever evolving nuclear and missile threats.

The debate comes after North Korea said it has test-fired three ballistic missiles "under the simulated conditions of making pre-emptive strikes at ports and airfields in the South." The missiles were all launched on July 19 with two flying some 500 to 600 kilometers.

Supporters for nuclearization argue that a nuclear-power status would enable the South to secure reliable deterrence by generating a balance of terror with the North. They added a nuclear armed South Korea can reduce its security reliance on the United Status and forge a more balanced relationship with both Washington and Beijing.

"Unless South Korea has nuclear weapons for self-defense purposes, it will have to spend more on its conventional military buildup to cope with growing military threats from the North," Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, said at a forum hosted by the Citizen's Solidarity For Peace and Unification.

If the South has nuclear weapons, it will have more say and be in a better position to represent its own interests in Northeast Asia as well as be able to maintain a more balanced approach in dealings with the United States and China.

Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, recently mentioned the "Trigger" strategy in which South Korea declares it will seek nuclear arms if the North conducts another nuclear test despite international sanctions and condemnation.

Those against nuclearization said the pursuit of nuclear weapons would bring about a regional nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia and eventually hurt the national interests of all countries in the end.

Chun Chae-sung, professor of political science and international affairs at Seoul National University, said, "If we move to become a nuclear weapons state, such a step will have an impact on the bilateral ties with the U.S. and may even cause Japan to go nuclear as well, escalating military tensions in Northeast Asia."

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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