Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, says the U.S. would obviously agree to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons if the South Korean government made an official request. "Tactical" nuclear weapons, which are smaller than "strategic" nuclear weapons, can be delivered via artillery rounds or short-range missiles to destroy targets on the battlefield rather than entire cities.
Samore stressed that his comments reflect his personal views and not the official U.S. position, but as the man in charge of arms control and weapons of mass destruction, he would not have commented completely beyond the official line about such a sensitive issue. Perhaps the U.S. government was establishing the boundaries after comments on Friday by conservative South Korean lawmakers, including Grand National Party Rep. Chung Mong-joon, calling for the redeployment of tactical U.S. nuclear weapons. Some even called for South Korea to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
On Nov. 8, 1991, President Roh Tae-woo announced five principles for denuclearization, vowing not to produce, possess, stockpile, deploy and use nuclear weapons. And on Dec. 18 the same year, he declared South Korea free of nuclear weapons. Roh fully accepted the U.S. government's decision to remove tactical nuclear weapons from its overseas bases, paving the way for the pullout of around 200 rounds in the arsenal of the U.S. Forces Korea.
The move was aimed at pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons as well. On Dec. 31 that year, North and South Korean representatives met at the border truce village of Panmunjom and made a joint declaration on denuclearization. But 20 years later, North Korea has developed around a dozen nuclear weapons and conducted two nuclear tests, while unveiling 2,000 centrifuges that can enrich enough uranium to produce one nuclear weapon a year. Counter to its original claim that its nuclear weapons are for self-defense, North Korea is now threatening to launch a "holy war" against the South.
We cannot sit idly by waving a denuclearization treaty that has now become null and void while North Korea stockpiles enough nuclear weapons to turn South Korea into a "sea of fire." The time has come to present North Korea with a specific deadline to abide by the treaty or risk seeing a nuclear-armed South Korea. If the North makes palpable progress in denuclearization before the deadline, then South Korea will scrap its plans to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons, or once in place they can be pulled out again any time the North decides to scrap its nuclear arms.