Song, Mattis reportedly discuss redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea

Posted on : 2017-09-01 17:13 KST Modified on : 2017-09-01 17:13 KST
The subject was said broached during the first day of SK Defense Minister’s visit to US
South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo holds a meeting with his counterpart
South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo holds a meeting with his counterpart

The South Korean and US defense leaders discussed the issue of deploying tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula during their meeting on Aug. 30, according to sources.

This marks the first official confirmation of discussions on the tactical nuclear weapon issue between top-level South Korean and US government figures. Critics are calling the discussions a hasty move that could fuel political controversy and confuse the issue of Seoul’s stated opposition to tactical nuclear weapons.

South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo met with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the Pentagon on Aug. 30 and broached the tactical nuclear weapon deployment issue during discussions on amending the South Korea-US missile guidelines, a senior government official reported.

The official remained quiet on the details, saying only that “the tactical nuclear weapon deployment issue was discussed, but it wasn’t anything specific.”

The redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons has become a heated political issue, with conservative parties strongly calling for it as a response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations. It’s also an incendiary issue with bearing on the peninsula’s denuclearization.

Some critics are contending that Song’s mention of the issue in an official meeting of ministers of defense was inappropriate. In particular, there are concerns that it could stir up needless trouble by generating confusion over the government’s stated opposition to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

In response, another official who accompanied Song explained that the minister had “merely noted that some of our opposition parties and media have been calling for that [redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons].”

Vice Minister of Defense Suh Choo-suk also told the National Assembly National Defense Committee on Aug. 31 that Mattis and Song “merely mentioned [deployment] and did not have any in-depth discussions according to my understanding.”

In a press briefing the same day, ministry spokesperson Cho Joon-hyeok dismissed the idea of redeployment, stating that the “administration’s basic position is for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

During their meeting, the two ministers also agreed on efforts to hasten the transfer of wartime operational control and amend the South Korea-US missile guidelines, the ministry reported.

On the additional deployment on four THAAD launchers, Song said after the meeting that he had “asked for [Mattis’s] understanding on President Moon Jae-in’s position that democratic procedures and legitimacy must be followed,” adding that Mattis had been “sufficiently understanding.”

Song arrived in the US for a five-day visit on Aug. 29.

By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer and Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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