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U.S. considers return of tactical nukes to Korean Peninsula

U.S. considers return of tactical nukes to Korean Peninsula

Posted March. 06, 2017 07:09,   

Updated March. 06, 2017 07:15


The Donald Trump administration is reportedly looking at a new policy toward North Korea including pre-emptive military strike options against its nuclear facilities as well as redeployment of American tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea. If the U.S. seeks to the return of tactical nukes in reality, such an action is expected to bring about an upheaval on the Korean Peninsula and its neighboring countries that are fluctuating already due to retaliatory measures of China against South Korea after the U.S. and South Korea agree to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

The New York Times reported on Saturday (local time) that Mr. Trump’s top national security aides held two meetings on North Korea including the one on Feb. 28 since the president took office and options were discussed along with the possibility of reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea as a dramatic warning in the two meetings. It also said that the White House is considering putting American tactical nuclear weapons back in South Korea along with pre-emptive military options, even if such a step could accelerate an arms race with the North.

It reflects that the Trump administration regards North Korea’s nuclear program as an actual threat and takes a hardline approach unlike previous administration. In an interview with Reuters on Feb. 23, Mr. Trump said, “It's very late. We’re very angry at what he (Kim Jong Un) has done.” The Obama administration dismissed the possibility of redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons and made it clear last year that the current U.S. nuclear umbrella (ICBM and other tactical nukes) is enough to cover the peninsula. Upon the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula issued in November 1911, the U.S. withdrew approximately 950 units of tactical nuclear weapons including surface to surface missiles from the Korean Peninsula.

The NYT also reported that China has already opposed the deployment of THAAD in South Korea but the Trump team may call for even more THAAD systems. It said that Mr. Trump’s national security deputies considers to continue the “left of launch” option, intensifying the cyber strikes, which had been pursued by the Obama administration since 2014 to neutralize North Korean missiles.

Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com