By Chung Min-uck
Seven out of 10 South Koreans agree to acquiring nuclear weapons amid growing security concerns following North Korea's latest nuclear test, a survey showed.
According to the survey conducted by The Asan Institute for Policy Studies (AIPS), a Seoul-based private think-tank, and released on Wednesday, 67 percent of the respondents said "yes" to re-introducing tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.
Only 28.8 percent opposed the re-introduction and rest of the respondents either refused to answer or remained undecided.
United States' nuclear weapons in South Korea were voluntarily withdrawn in 1991 shortly before signing the inter-Korean Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992. The two Koreas adopted the joint declaration in 1991 promising to denuclearize the peninsula and later forged another joint denuclearization statement in 2005. However, the North repeatedly said they would nullify the commitments before the country went ahead with its planned nuclear test on Feb. 12.
Seoul wants Pyongyang to live up to United Nations resolutions and commit to the denuclearization of the peninsula.
Asked whether Seoul needs to develop its own nuclear weapons, 66.5 percent agreed, while, 31.1 percent were opposed.
The survey was carried out by telephone on 1,000 adult men and women across the country from Feb. 13 to Feb. 15, immediately after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test.
Tension on the peninsula escalated sharply following North Korea's detonation of what it called a miniaturized nuclear device defying the U.N.'s ban on nuclear tests.
Meanwhile, another survey of 1,006 people by pollster Gallup Korea last week also showed similar results with 64 percent backing South Korea to go nuclear.
"South Koreans have felt the threat this time," said Shin Chang-hoon, director of the Nuclear Policy and Technology Center at AIPS. "Generally, South Koreans were considered insensitive to North Korea's repeated military provocations. But, when it comes to nuclear weapons, the survey proves that reaction is different."
Shin added "nuclear armament and re-introducing U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea is totally different." "The latter does not mean that South Korea is trying to escape from the ‘nuclear umbrella' provided by the U.S. So such a move is more understandable and realistic to pursue."
Experts say Seoul will neither be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by the re-introduction since the nuclear weapons would be from Washington.