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North Korea nuclear crisis

China rejects letting South Korea, Japan have nuclear arms

Wider use of nuclear weapons to counter threat from North Korea will only make the region more unstable, says Chinese ambassador to the US

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 5:26pm

China’s ambassador to the US has dismissed suggestions that South Korea and Japan should have nuclear weapons to counter the threat posed by North Korea.

Ambassador Cui Tiankai told reporters at an embassy event in Washington that the potential spread of nuclear weapons in the region would not bring security to anybody.

“It could only make things much worse,” said Cui. “We are certainly opposed to the existence of nuclear weapons anywhere on the Korean peninsula ... anywhere” Cui said.

The Chinese envoy’s comments on Friday came after the latest North Korean missile test, which flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

North Korean state media said on Saturday the nation’s aims was to seek an “equilibrium” of military force with the United States.

The statement followed an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council where the reclusive nation was once again condemned for its nuclear tests.

North Korea vows to continue nuclear tests despite condemnation from UN Security Council

South Korea’s Defence Minister, Song Young-moo, said at a parliamentary hearing in Seoul last week, that some lawmakers and media were strongly pushing for nuclear weapons to be redeployed on the peninsula, The Washington Post reported.

“The deployment of [US] tactical nuclear weapons is an alternative worth a full review,” Song was quoted as saying.

The weapons could include short-range missiles, artillery shells and other armaments equipped with nuclear warheads. The US had about 100 nuclear-armed weapons deployed in South Korea until 1991.

A spokesman for South Korea’s president, Kim Dong-jo, played down the idea saying “our government’s firm stance on the nuclear-free peninsula remains unchanged”.

South Korea’s ambassador to Washington, Ahn Ho-yong, echoed Seoul’s position.

“That is something which has been discussed by the public, ” Ahn told the South China Morning Post. “But the government has a very firm position – we’re not considering it.”

Cui told reporters on Friday that China understood South Korea’s fears. “We are willing to help them to solve these concerns on the condition of not risking China’s security interests,” he said.

However, Michael Pillsbury, a former US Defence Department official and an expert on China said at a think tank event in Washington last week there should be a review into whether to redeploy US nuclear weapons in South Korea.

“I’m against nuclear weapons for South Korea at the present time, but I’m not totally against it,” Pillsbury said.

The former Japanese defence minister Shigeru Ishiba also questioned whether the nation’s principles of not producing, possessing or deploying nuclear weapons offered a sufficient deterrent to the growing North Korean threat, the Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi reported.

Ishiba argued whether it was “really right to say we’ll be protected by the US nuclear umbrella while not allowing [nuclear weapons] in Japan”.

‘Missile launch, take cover’: Japanese jolted awake by terrifying warning

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, later said the government “firmly stands by the three non-nuclear principles as a matter of policy”.

“We have not discussed reviewing them thus far and we have no plans to consider it in the future,” Suga was quoted as saying by the news outlet Nikkei.

Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary at the US Defence Department, said in a Twitter post that Ishiba’s comment was “not a sign that Japan’s attitude toward nukes has changed”. “This is a reflection of rapidly diminishing confidence in US extended deterrence,” he wrote.