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South Korea lawmaker brandishes nuclear option
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 9, 2013

EU could tighten sanctions if NKorea stages new weapons tests
Brussels (AFP) April 09, 2013 - The European Union would consider tightening sanctions on North Korea if it stoked already high tensions with more missile or nuclear weapon tests, a senior EU official said Tuesday.

As Pyongyang warned the Korean peninsula faced "thermo-nuclear" war and advised foreigners in South Korea to consider leaving, the EU official said the situation was worrying but that hostilities did not appear to be imminent.

The official, who declined to be named, said the seven EU countries with embassies in the North Korean capital had not seen any preparations for war on the ground and "they are not considering evacuation at the moment."

Last week, North Korea told the embassies to consider withdrawing by Wednesday as it could not ensure the safety of their personnel if conflict broke out.

Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Romania and Sweden have diplomatic posts in Pyongyang.

North Korea has steadily ramped up its war rhetoric in recent months, claiming that the United States planned to attack it and that it was ready to use nuclear weapons.

The senior official said the EU was closely following a "very volatile" situation, adding that member states were looking at what further sanctions could be imposed.

The EU imposed sanctions, in line with UN approval, following a North Korean ballistic missile test in December and its third nuclear bomb test in February.

The sanctions ban trade in components and raw materials that could be used in weapons development, and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on some 26 North Korean individuals and 33 entities.

Washington is pressing the case to also impose sanctions on North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank (FTB) to limit Pyongyang's access to foreign currency which helps fund its nuclear programme.

The EU official said that while new steps were being looked at, there was also some concern about the possible impact on NGOs in North Korea, which provide food and medical aid to the isolated country and use the FTB for their work.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday that Pyongyang had completed preparations for a missile test-launch, possibly to coincide with April 15 celebrations for the birthday of late state founder Kim Il-Sung.

A prominent South Korean lawmaker said on Tuesday his country should consider developing nuclear weapons or bringing back a former US arsenal as a way to pressure North Korea and its ally China.

Chung Mong-Joon, a billionaire businessman who belongs to the ruling conservative New Frontier Party, said on a visit to Washington that the latest crisis with North Korea showed that diplomacy had failed with Pyongyang.

"The lesson of the Cold War is that against nuclear weapons, only nuclear weapons can hold the peace," Chung said, citing the previous long-standing nuclear stand-off between the Western allies and the Soviet bloc.

The former presidential candidate argued that South Korea has the right to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and then to match North Korea's nuclear work step-by-step, only stopping if Pyongyang does likewise.

"It would send a clear warning that, by continuing its nuclear program, North Korea is releasing the nuclear genie in East Asia," Chung told a conference of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"North Korea -- and for that matter China as well -- should know that South Korea has this option if it persists in possessing nuclear weapons," he said, referring to Beijing's alliance with Pyongyang.

Chung, in a view endorsed by some US Republicans, said the United States also had the option to return to South Korea the nuclear weapons which it withdrew in 1991 at the end of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

The remarks by Chung, the son of the founder of the Hyundai conglomerate, are not mainstream and few experts expect a country that has tried hard to use pop culture to give itself a friendly image to seek a nuclear arsenal.

The United States was unenthusiastic about Chung's proposal. A US official called South Korea a "committed partner" in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and said America was "steadfast" in providing a nuclear umbrella.

The US-South Korea alliance "is fully capable to deter, defend against, and respond to the threat posed to our allies, and to the United States, by North Korea," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The nuclearization of a close US ally would set back a longstanding, if repeatedly violated, principle of not allowing new nations into the nuclear club at a time when Washington is pressuring Iran over its contested program.

The United States this month took the unprecedented step of announcing a bombing test-run in South Korea by its nuclear-capable B-2 jets, in a show of force US officials said was aimed largely at quashing doubts in Seoul.

South Korea is also pressing to produce its own nuclear fuel for civilian purposes under a deal with Washington, a move resisted by the United States as it goes against a denuclearization agreement with North Korea.

The issue is expected to be on the agenda when Secretary of State John Kerry visits Seoul this weekend.

The United States stations some 28,500 troops in South Korea and around 50,000 in Japan.

While some nationalist politicians in Japan have also broached the idea of nuclear weapons, the idea is even more taboo in the only nation that has been attacked with atomic bombs.

Late South Korean dictator Park Chung-Hee -- the father of newly elected President Park Geun-Hye -- flirted with nuclear weapons in the 1970s when then US president Jimmy Carter planned to remove American troops from the peninsula.

Only North Korea has ever pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed in 1970 with an aim of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. India, Israel and Pakistan never signed the treaty.

Chung likened South Korea's position to "a member of the gun control lobby in good standing whose neighborhood gangster just acquired assault rifles and threatens him."

"In order to buy a gun to protect himself and his family against the gangster, he now wishes to withdraw his membership temporarily," Chung said.


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