North Korea’s tests of ballistic missiles may be prompting more South Korean politicians to support the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the South. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- A South Korean ruling party lawmaker said he is in favor of the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in his country, although South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office clearly ruled out the option in September.
Lee Jong-kul, a politician in Moon's progressive Minjoo Party, said Tuesday he is seeking U.S. endorsement on a potential South Korean decision to develop and deploy "sophisticated nuclear assets" on the peninsula to deter against North Korea provocations.
"I ask your strong support," Lee said before an audience gathered at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Lee's somewhat controversial proposal was met with support from the opposing side of South Korea's political spectrum.
Shin Sang-jin, a member of the National Assembly and the conservative Liberty Korea Party, said at the same forum organized by the Global Peace Foundation he supports the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons.
"Even though we don't know how effective this will be, one of the desired measures, I feel it, is the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula," Shin said Tuesday.
"Tactical nuclear weapons make North Koreans aware of their predicament."
Lee, who expressed his support for the redeployment of weapons in July, said the United States strictly regulates South Korea's development of nuclear power.
South Korea signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, and all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons were removed from the country in 1991.
But Lee said the restrictions should be removed and defended South Korea's nuclear option.
"The most secure and cheap [deterrent] is to possess [nuclear weapons]," Lee said.
Shin said redeployment is needed because more needs to be done to address North Korea's threats.
"The world needs a more active approach beyond sanctions and pressure," Shin said.
A recent Gallup Korea poll showed 60 percent of South Korean respondents were in favor of tactical nuclear weapons.
A U.S. analyst who spoke to UPI ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's 12-day Asia trip said there is anxiety in the South about North Korea's provocations, but South Koreans may also be lowering their expectations the United States will respond to aid the South.
Those concerns, however, may have been addressed during Trump's visit to Seoul last week, when he reassured South Koreans the alliance must stay strong in the face of a common threat.
Trump reaffirmed a longtime alliance "forged in war," while warning North Korea against a "fatal miscalculation."
In their last summit, Trump and Moon agreed to remove the limit on the payload of South Korean missiles.
The Global Peace Foundation is affiliated with the ultimate holding company that owns United Press International.