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China should rein in N. Korea if it's concerned about S. Korea's nuclear armament: Russel

All News 05:53 September 29, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- China should do more to rein in North Korea out of concern that South Korea or Japan could seek their own nuclear weapons to cope with Pyongyang's threats, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

"The Chinese are very mindful of the risk that either South Korea or Japan might distance itself from the U.S. nuclear umbrella and pursue their own capabilities, and that, I believe, ought to motivate China to redouble its efforts to push back on the North Koreans," Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said during a Senate hearing.

"That's only one of many examples of why we believe it is so in the best interest of China to tighten up on the North, to expand their cooperation with us, and to really abandon an old pattern of tolerating a significant amount of provocative and dangerous behavior of the DPRK," he said.

The North's fifth nuclear test earlier this month has given rise to greater calls in South Korea for the country's own nuclear armament, with not only lawmakers of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, but also members of liberal opposition parties making the pro-nuclear weapons case.

The government of President Park Geun-hye has rejected such an idea as running against the principle of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. Officials also say it would have negative effects on efforts to end the North's nuclear programs.

"The pressure in the mainstream political society in either the Republic of Korea or in Japan to contemplate the acquisition of nuclear weapons is directly commensurate with their faith in America's commitment as an ally to their defense and to the extended deterrence or the nuclear umbrella provided by their alliance with the United States," Russel said.

He said, however, that the U.S. commitment to South Korea's defense is strong enough for Seoul not to consider nuclear armament.

"We are giving enough confidence... that our deterrence, our nuclear umbrella, our willingness to utilize the full range of U.S. national security programs," Russel said.

Russel, however, did not specifically say whether the U.S. is willing to use nuclear weapons against the North, saying, "I'll leave it to the president to decide if and when the United States is going to use a nuclear weapon."

"The certainty on the part of the DPRK that the United States would either prevent their use of nuclear weapons or retaliate in a devastating manner is an effective deterrent," he said.


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