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South Korea needs own nuclear weapons: Korean media

The US Army fires a missile into the East Sea from an undisclosed location in South Korea, July 29, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Media in South Korea have started floating the idea that the country may have to develop nuclear weapons of its own, as fears escalate of a potential conflict with North Korea.
The Korea Herald wrote in an editorial on Friday that Seoul needed nuclear weapons to defend itself against the North.
“Trust in the nuclear umbrella the US provides to the South can be shaken,” read the editorial, adding that “now is the time to start reviewing nuclear armament.”
The paper also urged the US to deploy some of its nuclear weapons to South Korea if it did not want to see a nuclear-armed Seoul.
Under an atomic energy agreement signed with the US in 1974, South Korea is banned from building its own nuclear arms, and Washington has guaranteed to protect the South under a “nuclear umbrella” against potential aggression.
The US currently has some 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.
Replicas of North and South Korean missiles are pictured at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on August 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Reports, however, say that South Korea is technologically highly advanced and could develop an atomic device within months of deciding to do so.
The South’s defense chief, Song Young-moo, has said his country is “fully capable” of building its own nuclear weapons but is not considering that option for now.
‘Balance of terror’
A survey conducted last year, before tensions began to mount on the Korean Peninsula, indicated that about 57 percent of South Koreans supported the idea of Seoul having nuclear weapons, and 31 percent opposed it.
“We need to have our own military options to overwhelm the North,” the Korea Economic Daily said in an editorial earlier this week. It said a nuclear weapon will ensure a “balance of terror” and prevent Pyongyang from attacking the South.
Spike in tensions
Pyongyang, which conducted two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile last month, says it needs the weapons to defend itself against the threat of an invasion by its adversaries.
The US has long been opposed to the North Korean missile and military nuclear programs. Tensions have recently skyrocketed, with the two countries recently trading serious threats of an invasion.
US President Donald Trump (pictured below) threatened earlier this week to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on the North.
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In response to the threat, North Korea said a plan to fire four missiles at an area near the US Pacific territory of Guam would be ready in days. The tiny island is home to major US air and naval facilities.
Trump renewed his threat with another provocative warning on Thursday, saying “fire and fury” may not have been “tough enough.”
He said North Korea “better get their act together or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.”
Trump boasts of nukes
One day after threatening the North with “fire and fury,” Trump took to Twitter and boasted about the strength of US nuclear weapons and improvements he said had been made to the nukes on his watch.
“My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” he wrote.
Reports say, however, that Trump has done no particular improvements to the US’s nuclear arsenal, instead simply continuing maintenance work launched by former President Barack Obama, which will take years to complete.
China urged to ‘stay neutral’
Meanwhile, media in China, which has been warning against an escalation, are calling on Beijing to remain on the sidelines in the event of a first strike by North Korea.
Chinese newspaper the Global Times called on Beijing on Friday to “stay neutral” if the North strikes first in a possible military conflict with the US.
Under a treaty signed between China and the North back in 1961, China is obliged to defend North Korea in the event of an attack.
The Times said Beijing would not be “able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time.” It warned that the US and the North were playing a “reckless game” that could lead to “miscalculations and a strategic ‘war.’”
“It (the Chinese government) needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand,” it added.

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