The ‘National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013 Amendment to H.R. 4310’, which contains calls for the relocation of tactical nuclear weapons to the Western Pacific Region, passed a plenary meeting of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on the 9th.
This raised the possibility of nuclear weapons reappearing on the Korean Peninsula. However, that possibility remains extremely low.
A senior White House official has already asserted in response to fears, “Tactical nuclear weapons are unnecessary for the defense of South Korea and we have no plan or intention to return them.”
Early last year, Robert Jensen, the deputy spokesman for the National Security Council, said of the tactical nuclear weapons relocation plan, “Tactical nuclear weapons are unnecessary for the defense of South Korea and the administration has ‘no plan or intention to return them’”.
Also, a South Korean military source has been quoted as saying, “The relocation of tactical nuclear weapons would be to abandon the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Peninsula. It’s like removing proof demanding North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons.”
Professor Yoon Deok Min of Korea National Diplomatic Academy agreed with these suggestions, telling Daily NK, “The reason why the Republican played their ‘tactical nuclear weapon relocation’ card is to aim at all subjects pertaining to ‘North Korea’, the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the Democrats, ahead of the presidential election. It could also be a warning message for China, which supports North Korea.”
However if North Korea were to conduct a third nuclear test, it is possible that U.S. stance on tactical nuclear weapon could change, as Professor Yoon commented, saying, “North Korea has already launched its long-range rocket and seems to be preparing a third nuclear test. If a third nuclear test becomes reality, as a means by which to pressure and sanction North Korea there will likely be a review of tactical nuclear weapons relocation.”
Lee Chun Gun, a senior researcher with the Korea Economic Research Institute commented, “North Korea demands the right to verify the status of nuclear weapons in South Korea, where there are none, and was the first to break the ‘Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Peninsula’. South Korea has sufficient justification to be able to relocate tactical nuclear weapons.”