S Korea in talks with US to deploy strategic weapons

South Korea is in talks with Washington for the dispatch of US strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula, as the United Nations vowed stricter sanctions against North Korea for conducting what Pyongyang claimed to be a hydrogen bomb test.

This came as Seoul announced that it will resume at noon today loudspeaker propaganda along the heavily guarded North-South border, a move that is expected to escalate tensions as the high-decibel broadcasts are known to hit a raw nerve in Pyongyang.

United States President Barack Obama, in a phone call to South Korean President Park Geun Hye yesterday, reaffirmed the US' "unshakeable" commitment to South Korea's security.

The deployment of US military assets, which serves as a show of force against Pyongyang's provocations, could include a nuclear-powered submarine, the F-22 stealth combat fighter and the B-52 bomber, South Korea's Defence Ministry said.

Experts say the US could also push for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence missile system to South Korea, a move that Seoul had earlier resisted owing to pressure from China.

The US and South Korea, together with Japan, agreed to "forge a united and strong international response" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime's fourth and latest nuclear test since 2006, said the White House.

Ms Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a separate phone call, also agreed to work closely to swiftly adopt UN resolutions for strong sanctions against North Korea and collaborate with the US, China and Russia to deal with the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

Pyongyang said on Wednesday that it had elevated its nuclear capability with its first "successful" hydrogen bomb test.

North Korean state media Rodong Sinmun blamed the US for the test, saying in an editorial yesterday that the move was "our answer to the US' wrongful judgment" to cut off all communication and increase sanctions unless the country abandoned its nuclear stance.

The more hostile the US is, the more North Korea will "push ahead with our byungjin line", the newspaper added, referring to the Kim regime's simultaneous pursuit of nuclear and economic development.

The latest nuclear test drew condemnation from the international community, including Pyongyang's key ally China, which said it was "firmly opposed" to the move.

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that its senior officials have conveyed China's position to the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, and that China will play a constructive role in imposing UN sanctions on North Korea.

The ministry also called for the resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks involving China, the US, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas, insisting that dialogue is the only way to denuclearise North Korea. The nuclear talks were last held in 2008.

Within South Korea, there are mounting calls for the country to overhaul its cross-border policy in order to better manage Pyongyang's threats and restrain the Kim regime.

Senior politicians from the ruling Saenuri party, including chief policymaker Kim Jung Hoon and party whip Won Yoo Cheol, have also called for the country to arm itself with nuclear weapons as a form of self defence against North Korea.

Meanwhile, the South Korean military is ready to react to any further provocation from the North, said national security official Cho Tae Yong.

He added that South Korea decided to resume anti-Pyongyang broadcasts as the latest nuclear test is a "grave violation" of a cross-border deal to reduce tensions struck last August.

The broadcasts are deemed a powerful tool of psychological warfare against the reclusive North, which was driven to initiate dialogue with the South when the loudspeakers were deployed last August in retaliation for a land mine attack blamed on the North that maimed two South Korean soldiers.


This article was first published on January 08, 2016.
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