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N. Korea could employ tactical nukes to overcome military inferiority: expert

All News 15:37 April 20, 2022

By Kang Yoon-seung and Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea could employ tactical nuclear arms in a contingency as part of efforts to offset its weaknesses in the face of the superior conventional military capabilities of South Korea and the United States, a government expert said Wednesday.

Lee Sang-min, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), made the remarks after North Korea recently claimed to have tested a new tactical guided weapon to enhance its tactical nuclear operations.

"Even in a situation where the U.S.' extended deterrence cannot be provided through its strategic nuclear weapons, the conventional forces of the South and the U.S. are superior enough to overwhelm those of the North," he told reporters during a press event at the KIDA headquarters in northern Seoul.

"Due to the North's (conventional) inferiority, it could employ tactical nuclear weapons," he added.

Tactical nuclear arms refer to relatively shorter-range, lower-yield ones designed for a single battlefield in a broader wartime context, compared to the more powerful strategic nukes aimed at eliminating the enemy's will to fight.

Extended deterrence refers to Washington's stated commitment to mobilizing a full range of military capabilities, nuclear and conventional, to defend its Asian ally.

Touching on the North's latest weapons test, the researcher pointed out that Pyongyang is working on developing both tactical and strategic nuclear arms.

In its push to advance its nuclear program, the North would continue to diversify its tactical nuclear arms for various purposes, including nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or neutron bombs, Lee said.

The researcher also said that the North does not appear to have completed the development yet of strategic nuclear weapons capable of striking the U.S. mainland, like the Hwasong-15 and Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Park Chan-woo, another KIDA researcher, said that the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, KIDA and other organs have been working on research to update a new wartime operational plan in light of the North's evolving nuclear and missile threats.

During their defense ministerial talks in Seoul in December, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to update their wartime contingency plans.

This photo, released on April 17, 2022, by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, shows the test-firing of what it claims to have been a new tactical guided weapon. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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