N.Korea's Nuke Test Revives Defense Debates

      May 28, 2009 10:32

      North Korea's nuclear test has revived debate in the South about the handover of wartime operational control over the South Korean troops from the U.S. and nuclear armament.

      At the request of Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Chough Soon-hyung, the Ministry of Legislation recently issued a formal statement saying the current procedure for the takeover of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from the U.S. "leaves room for unconstitutionality."

      The ministry partially accepted Chough's argument that it was against the Constitution for the previous government to push for the takeover, a matter that could have decisive effects on national security and require an additional budget of hundreds of trillions of won, without a review by the Cabinet and approval from the National Assembly.

      At a meeting of senior government and ruling party officials on Wednesday, the ruling Grand National Party again asked the government to reconsider the takeover. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Seoul and Washington agreed the South Korean military would have exclusive control over its own troops, which in wartime is nominally still in U.S. hands, as of April 2012.

      The GNP also reportedly asked the government to see if the issue can be raised at the upcoming Seoul-Washington summit in June.

      Meanwhile, there are calls for South Korea to reconsider nuclear armament. GNP Chairman Park Hee-tae urged the government to find out how the U.S. will ensure a nuclear umbrella for the South. He called for South Korea to "make our own efforts to obtain enough deterrence against the nuclear weapons the North has already developed." In the same meeting, lawmaker Gong Sung-jin, a GNP Supreme Council member, said, "We should cool-headedly review if the inter-Korean declaration on nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is still effective."

      In an interview, LFP spokesperson Park Sun-young called for "a plan to develop nuclear weapons for self-defense."

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