PM says S. Korea not at stage to consider nuclear armament ‘for now’

June 26, 2024

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said Wednesday that South Korea is not at a stage to consider its own nuclear armament “for now,” given the United States has agreed to use its nuclear weapons to defend its ally.

Han made the remark during a meeting with reporters when asked to respond to calls for South Korea’s nuclear armament, which have grown since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty last week that committed each other to mutual defense.

“I don’t think we are at a stage to consider that for now,” Han said, noting that Seoul and Washington are in the process of carrying out the Washington Declaration adopted by President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden last year, including the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea with all its military capabilities, including nuclear.

“I think we should sufficiently realize the agreement reached between South Korea and the U.S. for now,” he added. “However, we will continue to review whether that is enough in the event of an external asymmetric military threat through annual meetings between the defense ministers or summit meetings.”

Han argued that the “better option” would be to defend the country without going nuclear because doing so would weaken the basis for Seoul’s campaign to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

“The international community’s sanctions against North Korea, and the nuclear cooperation between allies all start from the premise that we cannot accept North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and therefore must build deterrence capabilities through cooperation with allies or the international community,” he said. “I don’t think possessing our own nuclear weapons is the only way.”

Some members of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) have raised the need for nuclear armament in the face of an ever-changing international security landscape.

On Tuesday, Han Dong-hoon, a candidate for the next PPP leader, said the country “should move at least to the point of equipping ourselves with potential capabilities to go nuclear whenever we decide to do so.”

Rep. Na Kyung-won, another PPP leader candidate, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that she would adopt nuclear armament as a party platform if elected.