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(LEAD) Lawmakers call for nukes following N. Korea's 5th nuclear test

All Headlines 22:49 September 09, 2016

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; ADDS photo, comments in 9-14 para)

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- A hawkish lawmaker from South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party said Friday that Seoul should consider developing its own nuclear weapons, amid the escalating threats from Pyongyang, which carried out its fifth nuke test despite international sanctions.

"(The North Korea's fifth nuclear test) proves that we cannot curb Pyongyang's nuke tests and missile provocations only by international sanctions and statements made by parliament," Rep. Won Yoo-chul said.

Rep. Won Yoo-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap)

Earlier in the day the reclusive country detonated a nuclear device at its atomic test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province. The country state-run media confirmed it carried out the test.

Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January. After detonating its first nuclear device in 2006, the country carried out underground tests in 2009 and 2013, despite strong warnings by the outside world.

"Now we are faced with a situation in which we must consider changing the paradigm of solving the North Korean nuke issue," Won said. "The most effective way to curb such provocations is to develop our own nuclear deterrent."

Won currently heads a group of some 20 Saenuri lawmakers who have openly voiced support for the nuclear armament.

"We need to take steps to be armed with our own nuke not only to protect ourselves, but to preserve peace," Won said.

The lawmaker added Beijing, which has been protesting against Seoul's move to deploy a U.S. missile defense system to curb Pyongyang's provocations, must clarify what it stance is in regards to the latest nuclear test conducted by the North.

Reflecting this view, others in the party said positive action needs to be taken to cope with the North that does not seem interested in giving up its nuclear weapons.

At the parliamentary intelligence committee, Rep. Yeom Dong-yeol, the spokesman of the ruling party, said, "The latest test shows that North Korea developed its nuclear weapons to be smaller and lighter, making such weapons a realistic threat."

While he emphasized that the country should join forces with neighboring countries to come up with effective countermeasures, he mentioned the Saenuri also "takes note of an increasing voice from the public that is calling for a very strong self-defensive measures to deal with the threat," indicating the possibility to put nuclear armament on the party's agenda.

At an emergency meeting, floor leader Chung Jin-suk called on the government to come up with special measures to handle the crisis.

Last month, he demanded the government seriously consider "extraordinary measures" against North Korea's ever-growing nuclear threat, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

North Korea expert Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, agreed.

"North Korea's fifth nuclear test clearly shows that there are certain limitations and sanctions by the international community can only go so far in North Korea's denuclearization," he argued. "South Korea should stop obsessing over North Korean sanctions which proved to have limited effects, and show it can do far better than the North when it comes to nuclear capabilities."

This photo shows Chung Jin-suk, floor leader of ruling Saenuri Party, on Sept. 8, 2016. (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr

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