Posted : 2017-09-11 17:23
Updated : 2017-09-12 10:13

Calls growing for redeploying nuclear weapons in S. Korea

By Jun Ji-hye

U.S. officials and politicians are joining in the calls for the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea to counter North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile tests.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Sunday that the United States should seriously consider redeploying the weapons to the South.

"The (South) Korean defense minister just a few days ago called for nuclear weapons to be redeployed," McCain said during a nationally televised interview with CNN, adding he thought "it ought to be seriously considered."

Defense Minister Song Young-moo told a National Assembly session Sept. 4 that Seoul can consider the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons as one of the options to better deter evolving North Korean threats.

The session was held a day after the regime in Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test, claiming it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb (thermonuclear warhead) that could be mounted on its intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking targets on the U.S. mainland.

Song also mentioned the redeployment of such weapons during a bilateral meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Jim Mattis, in Washington at the end of last month.

Such weapons were withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula in the early 1990s.

NBC News also quoted an unidentified White House official as saying Friday that the Donald Trump administration is not ruling out redeploying the tactical weapons to South Korea should Seoul request them.

It added that U.S. officials have also told China that if Beijing doesn't take stronger steps against the North, such as cutting off oil supplies, Seoul and Tokyo are likely to pursue their own nuclear weapons programs and Washington will not stop them.

In 1991, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush decided to remove all U.S. nuclear weapons from the South in an effort to pave the way for renewed demands for the North to give up its nuclear program. The decision was the prelude to the two Koreas issuing a joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea's main opposition Liberty Korea Party has stepped up calls for the redeployment of the U.S. nuclear weapons, saying this is the only way to deal with the North's nuclear threats.

Some military observers are already raising speculation that B61 nuclear bombs capable of being loaded onto fighter jets would be moved to the South if the decision on the redeployment were made.

But skepticism is abounding over the concerns that the redeployment would break Seoul's denuclearization commitment and also break nearly three decades of U.S. policy of denuclearizing the peninsula.

The Moon Jae-in administration adhered to its original position that the redeployment would go against the principle of denuclearization of the peninsula.

"We are not considering the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons," a Cheong Wa Dae official said, asking not to be named.

U.S. politicians' growing mentions of nuclear weapons in the South is construed as being aimed at pressuring China and Russia ahead of the U.N. Security Council's (UNSC) vote on a draft resolution imposing additional sanctions on the North.

Washington wants the UNSC to impose an oil embargo on Pyongyang and ban textile exports from the North and the hiring of North Korean laborers to work abroad. But Beijing and Moscow are reportedly opposed to the measures, except for the ban on textile exports.

Meanwhile, the daily JoongAng Ilbo reported Monday that the former Park Geun-hye government asked the Barack Obama administration in early October to move U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the South, but the latter refused the request based on his hope of achieving a nuclear-free world.

The newspaper said Park's then Deputy National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong made the request during his visit to Washington from Oct. 4 to 7. Cho refused to talk about the issue.

관련 한글 기사

이총리 "전술핵 배치는 고려하고 있지 않아"

'한반도 비핵화는 변함없는 목표…북핵, 엄중한 현실'

'사드 추가 도입도 검토 안 해'

이낙연 국무총리는 11일 보수 야당에서 제기하는 전술핵 재배치 문제와 관련, '공식적인 입장을 말하면 전술핵 배치는 고려하고 있지 않다'고 밝혔다.

이 총리는 이날 국회에서 열린 대정부질문 답변을 통해 '한반도 비핵화는 변함없는 정부의 목표'라면서 이같이 말했다.

이 총리는 이어 '(대한민국은) 미국의 핵우산 아래 놓여 있다'며 '비핵화 원칙을 버려서는 안 된다고 생각한다'고 강조했다.

이 총리는 '전술핵도 검토한다'는 송영무 국방부 장관의 발언에 대해선 '비중을 두고 검토한다는 것이 아니고, 야당 의원의 질문에 대해 '많은 검토대상 가운데 하나'라는 언급이라고 본다'고 설명했다.

이 총리는 북한 핵의 경량화와 관련해서는 '수치로 말하기는 어렵지만, 상당히 높은 수준까지 이뤄졌다'며 '북핵은 아주 엄중한 현실'이라고 밝혔다.

그러면서 '대화를 거론할 단계가 아니고, 압박과 제재를 최대한 강화하며 한미 연합방위능력과 독자방위능력을 동시에 극대화하는 노력을 하고 있다'고 덧붙였다.

이 총리는 '압박의 측면에서, 대통령이 블라디미르 푸틴 러시아 대통령에게 원유공급 중단까지 제안할 정도로 압박의 강도를 높여가고 있다'고 밝혔다.

이 총리는 또 '서울에 핵폭탄이 떨어지는 경우에 대한 대비책이 있느냐'는 자유한국당 박대출 의원의 질의에 '모든 가능성에 대비해야 하지만 그런 가능성 크지 않다고 본다'고 답했다.

이 총리는 한국당 박찬우 의원이 사드(THAAD·고고도미사일방어체계) 추가 도입 여부에 대해 묻자 '현재로서는 검토하지 않는다'고 답했다.

박 의원이 '한미간 안보동맹이 흔들리는 것 아니냐'고 재차 질문하자 '안보 당국 간에 긴밀히 협의하고 있다. 통역이 없이 자정이 넘은 시기까지 통화하는 것은 처음'이라고 밝혔다.

이어 '미일 정상간에도 통화는 이뤄지고 있지만, 실질적 합의가 이뤄진 것은 못 봤다'며 '한미 정상 간에는 미사일 지침 개정이 즉석에서 합의되는 등 공조가 더 긴밀하게 이뤄지고 있다'고 설명했다.

이 총리는 사드 배치를 두고 문재인 정부의 입장이 바뀐 것 아니냐는 지적에는 '대통령 선거 토론회 당시 문재인 대통령이 '북한이 6차 핵실험을 하고 중국이 이를 제어하지 못하면 사드를 배치한다'고 말한 바 있다'고 상기시켰다.

이에 한국당 함진규 의원이 '중국이 제어를 못 했다고 보나'라고 묻자 이 총리는 '북한이 6차 핵실험을, 결국 중국이 제어를 못한 것 아닌가'라고 했다.

함 의원이 '얼마나 우리가 더 (북한에) 속아야 현실로 돌아오느냐'고 추궁하자 '현실을 직시하고 있다. 과거 정부의 책임을 따지자면 저도 할 말이 많지만 참겠다'고 언급했다.(연합)

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