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South Korean Leader: Seoul Won’t Seek Own Nuclear Deterrent

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SEOUL, Aug 17: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Wednesday his government has no plans to pursue its own nuclear deterrent in the face of growing North Korean nuclear threats, as he urged the North to return to dialogue aimed at exchanging denuclearization steps for economic benefits.

In a news conference in Seoul, Yoon said South Korea doesn’t desire political change in North Korea that’s brought by force and he called for diplomacy aimed at building sustainable peace between the rivals amid tensions over the North’s accelerating weapons program.

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Yoon’s comments came days after he proposed an “audacious” economic assistance package to North Korea if it abandons its nuclear weapons program, while avoiding harsh criticism of the North after it threatened “deadly” retaliation over a Covid-19 outbreak it blames on the South.

Tensions could rise further next week as the United States and South Korea kick off their biggest combined military training in years to counter the North Korean threat. The North describes such drills as invasion rehearsals and has often responded to them with missile tests or other provocations.

Yoon’s proposal for large-scale aid in food and healthcare and modernizing power and port infrastructure resembled previous South Korean offers that were rejected by North Korea, which is speeding its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, seen by leader Kim Jong Un as his strongest guarantee of survival.

Still, Yoon expressed hope for “meaningful dialogue” with North Korea over his plan and stressed that Seoul is willing to provide corresponding economic rewards at each step of a phased denuclearization process if the North commits to a genuine “roadmap” toward fully abandoning its weapons program.

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“We are not telling them to denuclearize entirely first and then we will provide,’” Yoon said. “What we are saying is that we will provide the things we can in correspondence to their steps if they only show a firm determination (toward denuclearization).”

Inter-Korean ties have worsened amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the U.S. that derailed in early 2019 because of disagreements over a relaxation of crippling U.S.-led sanctions on the North in exchange for disarmament steps.

North Korea has ramped up its missile testing to a record pace in 2022, launching more than 30 ballistic weapons so far, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles in nearly five years.

The heighted testing activity underscores North Korea’s dual intent to advance its arsenal and force the United States to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power so it can negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength, experts say. Kim could up the ante soon as there are indications that the North is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have developed a thermonuclear weapon to fit on its ICBMs.

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While Kim’s ICBMs get much of the international attention, North Korea is also expanding its range of nuclear-capable, short-range missiles that can target South Korea. Kim has punctuated his weapons development with threats to proactively use his nuclear weapons in conflicts against the South or the US, which experts say communicate an escalating nuclear doctrine that could increase concerns for its neighbours.

Yoon has vowed to strengthen the South’s defenses through its alliance with the United States by resuming large-scale military training that was cancelled or downsized during the Trump years and boosting the South’s missile defenses. The Biden administration has also reaffirmed US commitments to defending South Korea and Japan, including “extended deterrence,” referring to an assurance to defend its allies with its full military capabilities, including nuclear. (AP)

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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