11/15/2006, 00.00
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Seoul, Tokyo consider nuclear technology to stop Pyongyang threat

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

A South Korean defence expert said the only way out of the crisis sparked by Pyongyang's nuclear test was to match North Korean escalation. Tokyo said it had the right to self-defence, even through nuclear means.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – South Korea "needs to secure nuclear technology" and should move swiftly to get nuclear plants working, because this is the "only medium to long term strategy that would guarantee resistance to threats from the northern side of the border". This is the view of Kim Tae-woo, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses.

Kim said: "It is only in this way, by squaring the nuclear balance on the peninsula, that Pyongyang can be made to understand that violating the denuclearization pact signed in 1992 will cost it dearly and that blackmail will not lead it anywhere."

Under the agreement, signed in 1991 and entered into force the following year, the two countries commit themselves not to experiment with, produce, receive, sell or use any types of nuclear arms.

The researcher said: "Pyongyang repeatedly defied international agreements on nuclear weapons. Beyond the 1992 pact, there was the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States and all appeals from the UN, which were mostly ignored."

After withdrawing unilaterally from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 2003, North Korea announced for the first time that it possessed manufactured nuclear weapons. On 9 October last, it went ahead with a nuclear test on its territory: the experiment, the regime said, "was a success". The international crisis provoked by the claim culminated in the application of international sanctions against the Stalinist regime.

For Kim, however, Seoul bears some responsibility for this state of affairs: "We should have sent a strong signal to the North Korean government. Now it's too late and we need nuclear technology too because the disparity in war technology makes us all hostages of Pyongyang."

Japan shares the same view. Yesterday, the new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said: "Tokyo also has the right to build up a nuclear arsenal, because although the Constitution forbids aggressive militarization, here we are talking about the right to self-defence."

In any case, the premier said the Japanese government intended to stick to the old policy not to possess, produce or introduce nuclear weapons into the country.

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