World

Calls for South Korea to build nuclear weapons

SEOUL: As nuclear-armed North Korea's missile stand-off with the United States escalates, calls are mounting in the South for Seoul to build nuclear weapons of its own to defend itself - complicating the situation even further.

The South, which hosts 28,500 US troops on its soil to defend it from the North, is banned from building its own nuclear weapons under an atomic energy deal it had signed in 1974 with the US - its security guarantor that instead offers Seoul a "nuclear umbrella" against potential attacks.

Now, South Korea's media are leading calls for a change of tack.

South Korea, which fought a war with the North that ended in a stalemate in 1953, is highly technologically advanced and analysts estimate it could develop an atomic device within months of deciding to do so.

"Now is time to start reviewing nuclear armament," the Korea Herald said in an editorial yesterday.

It urged Washington to deploy some of its atomic weapons to South Korea if it did not want to see a nuclear-armed Seoul.

The US stationed some of its atomic weapons in the South following the 1950-53 Korean War, but it withdrew them in 1991 when the two Koreas jointly declared that they would make the peninsula nuclear-free.

A survey last year - even before tensions began to mount - already showed that about 57 per cent of South Koreans supported the idea of nuclear armament, with 31 per cent opposing it.

"We need to have our own military options to overwhelm the North," the Korea Economic Daily said in an editorial this week, calling for a nuclear weapon to ensure a "balance of terror" and prevent Pyongyang from attacking the South. - AFP

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