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Opposition leader: South Korea may have to arm with nukes to counter North

Opposition leader: South Korea may have to arm with nukes to counter North

The People Power Party leader said he expects the incoming Biden administration to take a different approach with North Korea, likely favoring working-level discussions instead of the one-on-one summit diplomacy Trump opted for. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

SEOUL, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The leader of South Korea's opposition People Power Party, Kim Chong-in, said on Tuesday that the country needs to consider arming itself with nuclear weapons to counter the threat from North Korea.

Kim said South Korea has a variety of options for facing a growing threat from the North, including remaining under the nuclear umbrella of the United States or allowing Washington to station nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

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The United States formerly maintained nuclear arms in South Korea until 1991.

"It is unlikely that North Korea will take the path of denuclearization," Kim said during a briefing with reporters in Seoul on Tuesday. "In the interest of self-protection, we may have to find our own solution."

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However, Kim said that if traditional means of dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat prove unworkable, then the South should pursue its own nuclear arsenal.

"If it's not feasible, then we will have to figure out a way to protect ourselves against any clear threat posed by North Korea," he said. "In that context, then our conventional position on nuclear weapons should be revisited."

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In a report published in July, the U.S. Army estimated that Pyongyang has a stockpile that includes as many as 60 nuclear weapons and is capable of producing about six more each year.

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Kim, whose conservative People Power Party holds 103 seats in South Korea's 300-member parliament, said that Seoul will still rely on the United States for nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

"I do not believe that our nation has capability to unilaterally lead North Korea to the path of denuclearization," he said. "So it is up to the degree of commitment from the U.S. government."

Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been at a standstill since a summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, last year failed to produce an agreement.

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The People Power Party leader said he expects the incoming Biden administration to take a different approach with North Korea, likely favoring working-level discussions instead of the one-on-one summit diplomacy Trump opted for.

Kim said, however, that he doesn't expect North Korea to voluntarily surrender its nuclear arsenal.

"I do not believe that the negotiations that the new Biden administration might have with North Korea will be easy," he said. "It is unlikely that there will be any significant progress in the [nuclear] matter."

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