In the latest sign of rising tensions, many influential South Korean politicians and journalists are calling for the development of the South’s own nuclear weapons arsenal, reports the New York Times late Sunday night.The calls for native nukes counter an agreement the U.S. signed with the South in 1950s, stipulating that U.S. protection precluded the development of nuclear bombs.
The sentiment is a shift for the once confident South which announced three weeks ago that it had cruise missiles that “could hit the offices of the North’s Leaders.” The change of sentiment comes on the heels of the North’s cutting off of communication with the South — a sign the South is evidently taking quite serious.
“The third nuclear test was for South Korea what the Cuban missile crisis was for the U.S.,” Han Yong-sup, a professor of security policy at the Korea National defence University in Seoul, told the Times. “It has made the North Korean threat seem very close and very real.”
The chain of events started with North Korea boasting about attacking the “American homeland” with nuclear bombs. The knee-jerk reaction from American officials was, of course, that North Korea is not capable of reaching the U.S.
Although America shrugged off the threat, analysts pointed out that North Korea could reach two American allies, South Korea and Japan.
The Times reports that new President Ms. Park Geun-hye is eager to live up to her father’s hard-line stance on the North, and live down the bitter taste left in the mouths of many South Koreans when the North last attacked, shelling an island and killing four people.
She has vowed a swift response to any North Korean aggression.
Ellen Kim, assistant director and Fellow of the Korea Chair at the centre for Strategic and International Studies, told BI there’s a possibility now that North Korea could set up another nuclear test as a show of strength.
The problems began for the North with their nuclear and rocket tests though, and all the tough talk stems from U.N. sanctions following these tests.
The U.S. cut off food aid to North Korea when they tested one of their rockets last year, a move the U.N. said would starve 3 million North Korean people — due in large part to North Korea’s “military first” attitude in terms of spending.
The most recent U.N. sanctions, agreed upon with China, target the pockets of North Korea’s elite, cutting off financial transaction and shipments of weapon-making materials.
It seems the world of science and foreign policy have something in common: for every action, there is equal and opposite reaction.
Now as both the South and U.S. conduct annual military training exercises, ones the North routinely calls an “act of war,” what the reaction will be is still anybody’s guess.
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