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‘S. Korea, Japan could be allowed for nuclear armament,' says Tillerson

‘S. Korea, Japan could be allowed for nuclear armament,' says Tillerson

Posted March. 20, 2017 07:08,   

Updated March. 20, 2017 07:16


“The threat of North Korea is imminent… The U.S. may have to consider allowing nuclear armament of South Korea and Japan, depending on how the (North Korean) situation evolves,” the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

The top U.S. diplomat made the remarks in an interview with an Independent Journal Review reporter who was accompanying him in his flight to China on Saturday after visiting South Korea. “Our policy objective is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but we cannot predict the future (of the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula),” he said.

The remarks came after Tillerson stated that "the U.S. can consider all different diplomatic, security and economic options” during his visit to South Korea. He thus indicated in the event that the North’s nuclear threat evolves to the tipping point such as North Korea’s possible strike of the U.S. mainland, the Donald Trump administration could resort to all possible measures at its disposal, an argument that heralds looming ramifications. His remarks on the day are interpreted as meaning that the U.S. could allow South Korea to seek development of nuclear weapons on its own albeit limitedly to secure its military deterrence against Pyongyang, which goes beyond the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula that were withdrawn from the peninsula in 1991. As such, the issue will likely emerge as a core security agenda along with the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korean politics during the ongoing early presidential election. Up until his Senate confirmation hearing in January, Tillerson said he did not agree with the idea of allowing nuclear armament of South Korea and Japan, which President Trump had announced during the presidential election.

In the interview with the Independent Journal Review, Secretary Tillerson used the expression‎ "imminent threat" several times to address the situation over North Korean nuclear weapons, saying that China should join forces with the U.S. in a fight to resolve this issue. He thus stressed that Beijing should more proactively participate in international sanctions against Pyongyang that are spearheaded by Washington.

Tillerson conveyed President Trump’s message to Chinese President Xi Jinping when paying a visit to the Chinese leader at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. At the meeting Xi said, “While beefing up communications on pending regional issues, let’s respect core mutual interests and key concerns, and thereby stabilize bilateral relations,” hinting that Xi and President Trump will fiercely lock horns over North Korean nuclear threat and the deployment of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula during the U.S.-China summit early next month.

Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com · Ja-Ryong Koo bonhong@donga.com