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(LEAD) Ruling party lawmakers contemplate hawkish actions to deal with Pyongyang

All Headlines 17:21 September 12, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS details throughout)
By Song Sang-ho and Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- A group of ruling party lawmakers on Monday proposed setting up a panel to discuss "effective" measures against Pyongyang, adding Seoul should also consider developing its own nukes and deploy nuclear-powered submarines to better tackle the North's missiles.

They said preventive measures include redeploying the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula as well as other actions to better tackle threats such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).

Participants said South Korea could also consider leaving the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as its law stipulates a member can leave the agreement if its national security is severely challenged.

"In order to acquire nuclear weapons, it should withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Saenuri Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun told Yonhap News Agency over the phone.

The group, led by former Saenuri Party floor leader Won Yoo-chul, made the proposal during its emergency session at the National Assembly, where the participants called for "measures equivalent to South Korea's own nuclear armament."

"We propose establishing a parliamentary panel that involves both ruling and opposition parties, in order to craft effective measures to make sure that North Korea's (threats from its) nuclear test will no longer be disregarded," the group said in a statement.

The session was held three days after Pyongyang sharply raised cross-border tensions with its fifth and most powerful nuclear test. The North's latest provocation has added to the growing calls for South Korea to develop its own nuclear arms.

"North Korea's fifth nuclear test is breaking peace and stability in Northeast Asia, and fueling fears and anxieties," Rep. Won also said during the session. "We (South Korea) should devise all possible ways to deter (North Korea), including South Korea's nuclear armament, from a standpoint of self-defense."

Monday's meeting was also attended by Defense Minister Han Min-koo and Foreign Ministry's Director-General for Policy Planning Shin Beom-chul.

"What the Kim Jong-un regime can obtain from its development of nuclear arms is stronger international sanctions and isolation, and it would only hasten its self-destruction," the defense chief said. "We will maintain a full readiness posture to sternly and strongly respond to any type of provocations."

"The reason North Korea is making SLBMs public, despite the fact that it is strategically beneficial to hide such weapons, is to win acknowledgment as a nuke-armed country," Shin said. "In this context, Pyongyang's provocations will not just end with the fifth test."

The ruling party has been split over the idea of the country's nuclear development.

Some argue that South Korea's nuclear armament is the only effective way to deter a provocative North Korea. Others, however, say that the country's nuclearization is unrealistic as it runs counter to its long-held denuclearization principles and could trigger complications on the diplomatic front.

"We are concerned with the ruling party's attitude, as such opinions will only drive the Korean Peninsula into further risks and uncertainties," a spokesman from the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea said.

"The idea is a mere irresponsible provocation to conceal the government's inability to manage inter-Korean issues," he added.

Park Jie-won, the floor leader of the minor People's Party, echoed the view, adding that nuclear armament will potentially spark a war.

Rep. Won Yoo-chul (L) of the ruling Saenuri Party and Defense Minister Han Min-koo attend a forum on North Korea's nuclear problem at the National Assembly on Sept. 12, 2016. (Yonhap)

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