US lawmakers push for tactical nukes in Korea
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A U.S. congressional committee is pressuring the Obama administration to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
The House Armed Services Committee, dominated by Republicans, approved an amendment to the fiscal 2013 national defense authorization bill Thursday that calls for the re-introduction of the sensitive weapons to South Korea, according to Foreign Policy magazine.
It also would require Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to submit a report on the feasibility and logistics of redeploying nuclear weapons to South Korea, added the magazine.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who reportedly sponsored the amendment, and his staff were not available to confirm the report.
"We in the last many years have appealed to China to help us negotiate with North Korea to bring them in line in the quest for peace in the world... China has now embarked on selling nuclear components to North Korea," Franks was quoted as saying in the committee's markup.
The North has carried out two underground nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, and is suspected to be preparing for a third.
Some Korean conservatives have also raised the issue of redeploying U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea to counter the North's missile and nuclear threats.
"(Korea and the U.S.) should consider the re-introduction of tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula," Rep. Chung Mong-joon told reporters in Seoul earlier this week. Chung of the ruling Saenuri Party declared a presidential bid in December.
He pointed out that the North is a de-facto nuclear power, adding that bolstering nuclear capability is the only way to change Pyongyang's approach toward Seoul.
It remains doubtful, however, that the Obama government, campaigning for a nuclear-free world and negotiations to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons, will send nuclear weapons to Korea.
"Our policy remains in support of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula," a senior White House official told Yonhap News Agency earlier. "Tactical nuclear weapons are unnecessary for the defense of South Korea and we have no plan or intention to return them."
The White House National Security Council did not respond to Yonhap's fresh inquiry on whether the position has shifted.
The U.S. pulled all of its forward-based nuclear weapons out of Korea in 1991 after the two Koreas signed a deal on the denuclearization of the peninsula. Since then, the U.S. has provided a so-called nuclear umbrella for the South.