Defense Chief Raises Redeployment of U.S. Nukes in S.Korea

  • By Lee Yong-soo

    September 01, 2017 09:23

    Defense Minister Song Young-moo brought up possible redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons here as he met with his U.S. counterpart James Mattis and White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Wednesday.

    The U.S. withdrew its nukes from South Korea in 1991, but now the prospect of North Korea developing its own nuclear-tipped missiles is becoming increasingly real.

    A senior government official here quoted Song as telling McMaster that opposition parties and the media here are calling for re-deployment of the nukes. How the U.S. officials reacted is not known.

    Cheong Wa Dae said Song did not mean that the government wants the U.S. nukes to return, but just reported these opinions. Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told the National Assembly Defense Committee, "Song and Mattis merely exchanged comments on the issue but didn't have any serious discussion about it."

    "There has been no detailed discussion about it between Seoul and Washington, and Washington has no strong opinion either," he added. 

    Defense Minister Song Young-moo (left) talks with his U.S. counterpart James Mattis at the Defense Department in Washington on Wednesday. /Courtesy of the Defense Ministry

    Those in favor of the redeployment reason that it would restore some balance of power if the North does acquire usable nuclear arms since there is no chance of Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear program.

    The defense chiefs of the two countries also discussed the rotational and permanent deployment of other U.S. strategic weapons here, the ministry said.

    Song also affirmed the need for South Korea to increase the permissible payload of its missiles as North Korea's missile technology advances by leaps and bounds. "Seoul and Washington shared the view that we should make the weight of the payload suitable for the target," he said.

    Current U.S. guidelines limit the payload of South Korean missiles to half a ton, but negotiations are separately underway to raise that to 1 ton.

    Song said full operational control of its troops must be returned to Seoul by the time it completes its defense reforms, and Mattis agreed to cooperate, according to the Defense Ministry here.

    The ministry has already flagged several reforms that would allow South Korea to defend itself more independently.

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