North Korea's Test Fires Up Debate in South Korea on Nuclear Weapons

4798North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 stirred debate on the southern side of the peninsula about Seoul arming itself with nuclear weapons in response.

A rally in Pyongyang on Thursday to celebrate North Korea's nuclear test earlier in the week. The writing reads "We warmly congratulate the 3rd successful underground nuclear test."
The debate predictably flared up again this week after Pyongyang staged its third such test on Tuesday.

Several lawmakers from the ruling conservative Saenuri Party as well as right-leaning newspapers have been vocal in calling for the South to respond in kind against the mounting nuclear threat from the North.

"You just can't deal with a gangster in your neighborhood who has bought a new machine gun with a stone," Rep. Chung Mong-joon, who once headed the governing party, said at a party meeting Wednesday.

Incoming president Park Geun-hye hasn't spoken publicly about the prospect of Seoul having its own nuclear arsenal but outgoing President Lee Myung-bak gave the idea qualified support in an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo published Friday.

"There are some people saying South Korea should also have nuclear weapons. Those remarks are patriotic and think highly of them. I don't think the comments are wrong because they also serve as a warning to North Korea and China," the newspaper quoted Mr. Lee as saying.

But Mr. Lee added that it isn't appropriate to discuss developing nuclear weapons at a time when Seoul's ultimate goal is to make the North give up its nuclear ambitions via international cooperation.

Seoul's interest in nuclear armament goes back to the 1970s when President Park Chung-hee, the father of Park Geun-hye, sought to secretly develop nuclear arms before the plan was dropped because of widespread opposition from the international community.

Source: Wall Street Journal | In-Soo Nam
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