US ally threatens to acquire nuclear weapons
Seoul could arm itself with tactical nuclear weapons if tensions with Pyongyang continue to grow, South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, has said. It comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said this month his country would develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile as the US and South Korea were seeking to “isolate and stifle” Pyongyang.
“If the [North Korean nuclear] problem becomes more serious, the Republic of Korea may deploy tactical nuclear weapons or come to possess its own nuclear weapons,” Yoon, who became president last year, said during a government meeting on Wednesday, as quoted by local media.
“If that happens, it won’t take long, and with our science and technology, we could have [nuclear weapons] sooner as time passes,” Yoon added.
The US pulled its nuclear forces from South Korea in 1991 following disarmament talks with Pyongyang and Moscow. Relations have since deteriorated, with North Korea stepping up missile tests last year and enshrining the right to use nuclear weapons into national law in September. The escalation has rattled Seoul, which is now seeking to strengthen its military alliance with the US and deepen cooperation with Japan.
Yoon said on Tuesday that the allies were discussing holding new joint military drills, including tabletop and computer simulations, as well as exercises involving the “delivery means for nuclear weapons.”
US President Joe Biden, however, denied on Monday that Washington was considering joint nuclear drills with South Korea.
Pyongyang has insisted that its launches are a response to US-South Korean exercises, which North Korea views as a national security threat.