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‘Japan says it can arm itself with nuclear weapons in six months,’ says Yoon

‘Japan says it can arm itself with nuclear weapons in six months,’ says Yoon

Posted March. 27, 2023 07:43,   

Updated March. 27, 2023 07:43


“South Korea can own its own nuclear weapons within a short period of time based on its scientific technologies. Japan says it can do so in just six months,” said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a January briefing by the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the then-public sentiment surrounding nuclear armament in South Korea and other countries.

“Tactical nuclear weapons may be deployed to South Korea, or we may own our own nuclear weapons if North Korea’s nuclear issue gets worse," President Yoon said then. His comment that Japan could arm itself with nuclear weapons in six months was not included in the record of a speech released by the presidential office. His comment implying South Korea’s potential nuclear armament with a mention of Japan is garnering attention as he plans to discuss with U.S. President Joe Biden how to strengthen effective deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear expansion during his visit to the U.S. in April after a recent summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“It is important to choose a realistically feasible option,” said President Yoon in January. “There is a discussion between South Korea and the U.S. on how South Korea may share information with the U.S. and jointly participate, plan, and execute with the country regarding its operation of nuclear assets,” he emphasized, focusing on strengthening the effectiveness of deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear expansion, rather than South Korea’s nuclear armament. President Yoon's comment is interpreted to have the intention to strengthen the bargaining power for the discussion of joint planning and execution of nuclear assets. "As Japan has completed all the technical preparations required for nuclear armament, it may succeed in nuclear armament in less than six months," said Jeong Seong-jang, the head of the East Asia cooperation center of Sejong Institute during a phone call with the Dong-A Ilbo. "However, it will take a minimum of one year for South Korea's nuclear development as the country does not have uranium enrichment facilities nor nuclear reprocessing facilities."

Meanwhile, President Yoon said how he could keep his emotions under control, thinking of the young soldiers who passed away with regards to getting emotional during the roll call process of naming the victims during an event to commemorate West Sea Defense Day on Friday.

Kwan-Seok Jang jks@donga.com