Seoul to China, Russia: Stop Nuke Test 06/27 06:06
A top South Korean official said Monday that North Korea is increasingly
targeting the South with its nuclear arms program, and urged China and Russia
to persuade the North not to conduct a widely expected nuclear test.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A top South Korean official said Monday that
North Korea is increasingly targeting the South with its nuclear arms program,
and urged China and Russia to persuade the North not to conduct a widely
expected nuclear test.
Unification Minster Kwon Youngse's comments came after North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un re-emphasized his nuclear ambitions in a key military meeting last
week and approved unspecified new operational duties for front-line army units.
Experts say North Korea could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear
weapons along its tense border with South Korea. During a prolonged stalemate
in nuclear diplomacy, North Korea has spent much of the past three years
expanding its arsenal of short-range solid-fuel missiles that are potentially
capable of evading missile defenses and striking targets throughout South
Korea, including U.S. bases there.
U.S. and South Korean officials say that North Korea has all but finished
preparations for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed
to have detonated a thermonuclear warhead designed for intercontinental
ballistic missiles. North Korea may use its next nuclear test to claim that it
has acquired the ability to build small nuclear warheads that can be placed on
short-range missiles or other new weapons systems it has demonstrated in recent
months, analysts say.
Kwon, who oversees South Korea's relations with North Korea, said at a news
conference that the North is exploiting a favorable environment to push ahead
with weapons development and overturn the regional status quo as the U.S.-led
West remains distracted over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He said North
Korea's nuclear ambitions pose a "very serious and fundamental threat" to South
Korea and that Seoul is preparing stern countermeasures in response to a
possible North Korean nuclear test. He didn't elaborate.
"North Korea's transition in weapons development from long-range ballistic
missiles to short-range ballistic missiles, from strategic nuclear weapons to
tactical nuclear weapons, is obviously targeted toward South Korea," Kwon said.
"It seems clear that North Korea is simultaneously pursuing an ability to
attack the United States and to attack South Korea," he said.
Kwon said North Korea could go ahead with a nuclear test at "any time."
While the U.S. government has vowed to pursue additional sanctions against
North Korea if it conducts another nuclear test, the possibility of meaningful
new punitive measures remains unclear because Russia's war in Ukraine has
deepened divisions among permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. China
and Russia have vetoed U.S.-sponsored proposals that would have increased
sanctions on North Korea over some of its recent ballistic missile tests.
Kwon, who served as South Korea's ambassador to China from 2013 to 2015,
expressed hope that Beijing and Moscow will react differently to a North Korean
nuclear test since both have maintained public support for a denuclearized
"If North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test at a time when the global
security situation is as instable as it is now, the country will face enormous
criticism from international society, and the response will be more than just
words," Kwon said.
North Korea has conducted more ballistic tests in the first half of 2022
than it has in any previous entire year, firing around 30 missiles, including
its first tests of ICBMs in nearly five years. Kim has punctuated the tests
with repeated comments that North Korea would use nuclear weapons proactively
if threatened or provoked, which experts say is an escalation in its nuclear
The U.S. government has reaffirmed its commitment to defending allies South
Korea and Japan with its full range of military capabilities, including
nuclear, but there are concerns in Seoul that North Korea's ICBMs could make
Washington hesitant in the event of another war on the Korean Peninsula.
Experts say North Korea's unusually heavy testing activity this year
underscores Kim's intent to advance his arsenal as well as pressure the United
States into accepting North Korea as a nuclear power, thereby strengthening its
position in negotiating economic and security concessions.
Talks have stalled since early 2019 because of disagreements over a
relaxation of crippling U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for
North Korean disarmament steps.