‘US Unlikely to Redeploy Nukes in South’
By Jung Sung-ki
Washington is unlikely to re-deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula to deter North Korea's nuclear threat largely because of its goal ofdenuclearizing the peninsula, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
``The chances of the United States re-deploying those weapons are slim,'' the newspaper reported, citing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's remarks last week that the goal of U.S. diplomacy is to denuclearize the peninsula.
A group of 17 former South Korean defense ministers and war veterans last week issued a statement calling on the government to ask the U.S. military to re-deploy tactical nuclear weapons, which were removed by former President George H.W. Bush's administration in 1991 as part of arms reductions following theCold War.
In the same year, the two Koreas signed a pact pledging not to deploy, develop or posses nuclear bombs on the peninsula, which was apparently breached by Pyongyang when it reportedly conducted a nuclear bomb test on Oct. 9.
Defense analysts also said the U.S. government is expected to provide a stronger nuclear umbrella to Seoul rather than re-deploying nuclear weapons on the peninsula, which would fan a nuclear arms race among countries like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
Kim Tae-woo, a researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), said the current U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea is enough to counter North Korea's nuclear capability.
``What South Korea needs right now is the United States' firm commitment to the provision of nuclear umbrella to South Korea, given that U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines frequently visit South Korean ports and are being deployedaround the peninsula,'' said Kim.
Defense Yoon Kwang-ung and his U.S. counterpart Donald H. Rumsfeld are to meet in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to reaffirm military cooperation, includingthe nuclear umbrella for Seoul, against the apparently nuclear-armed Pyongyang regime.
During the security talks, called the Security Consultative Meeting, the two sides are also expected to draw up a final road map regarding the transition of wartime operational control that has remained in the hands of the U.S. military.
The U.S. military is reportedly deploying about 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons around the world. Most of the atomic weapons are being stationed at bases in Hawaii and Guam and have advanced aircraft carriers and submarinesavailable for nuclear weapons installment.
Tactical nuclear weapons are used in a limited nuclear war targeting the enemy military forces. They have an explosive yield ranging from 0.1 kiloton (100 tons of TNT) to 1 megaton (1 million tons of TNT).
The ``low-yield'' weapons are short-range, covering less than 500 kilometers, and take the form of artillery shells. An arms control treaty does not currently cover these nuclear weapons.
Tactical nuclear weapons expected to cover Korea include the Tomahawk cruise missile capable of carrying a 200 kiloton nuclear warhead, the AGM-69 short-range attack missile, the AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile fo rB-52 bombersand the BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile, according to defense experts.
Strategic nuclear weapons are used in an attack aimed at an entire country, including both military and civilian targets, in a full-scale nuclear war. Such an attack would seek to destroy the entire economic, social and military infrastructure of a country.
A case in point is the United States' nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.