Calls for tactical nuclear weapons foolish: former senior US official

JEJU ? Recent calls from the US Congress for the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula stems from Republicans' "romance" with them, a former senior Washington official said, dismissing its possibility.

"The Republican Party has always had a romance with tactical nuclear weapons. They have always seen them as a way to reduce the need for manpower and to reduce the size of the budget," Morton H. Halperin, former US undersecretary of defense for policy, told The Korea Herald last week.

"It is a foolish idea. I don't think there is any chance that this administration will do it, and I don't think there is any chance any future administrations will do. Remember? It was George Bush who took the nuclear weapons out of not only Korea, but all of Asia."

Halperin, currently a senior advisor at the Open Society Foundations, was here last week to attend the 7th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity on the southern resort island.

The three-day international forum ended on Saturday.

As North Korea has been pursuing nuclear warheads and delivery capabilities, a debate here over the need to draw up measures against it has been reignited.

One of them was to revise a Seoul-Washington agreement that bans Korea from developing a ballistic missile with a range of longer than 300 kilometers.

Halperin said the range extension will not be easy.

"It is going to be difficult. I think the issue of Korea deciding that it uses a nuclear option to deal with North Korea is a potentially most explosive issue in the relationship between the US and Korea," he said. "I think we need to find a creative way to deal with it including continuing to make efforts to persuade North Korea to denuclearize."

Asked whether Korea's military should also pay more attention to potential threats from neighboring states such as China and Japan given it has focused primarily on deterring North Korea, Halperin said that those states will not pose any military threat to Korea.

As China and Japan have constantly challenged Korea's sovereignty to Ieodo, south of Jeju Island, and its easternmost islets of Dokdo, respectively, security experts here have called for strengthening naval defense.

"It is quite startling how intensely nations fight about trivial pieces of land when they have much larger pieces of land. I think South Korea should focus its military efforts on containing North Korea. I don't think they will pose a military threat to Korea in any time," he said.

For such belief, he underscored that power in this modern world comes from economic capability, not from military power.

"It is true that the Chinese military capability has been growing because it has more economic power. But the fact is that China had a nuclear weapon a very long time ago, and nobody paid the slightest attention to it," he said.

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