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March 01, 2011

Obama Administration Wants a Nuclear-Free Korean Peninsula

A senior U.S. official is rejecting calls by some conservative South Korean politicians who want American nuclear weapons returned to the country because they see an increased threat from North Korea.

Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department’s special advisor for non-proliferation and arms control, says there is no need for U.S. nuclear weapons to be brought back to South Korea.

Einhorn on Wednesday said the Obama administration wants the Korean peninsula to be free of nuclear weapons.

"The United States has a range of nuclear delivery capabilities offshore that can provide a very strong extended deterrent to North Korea without the need for nuclear weapons belonging to the United States actually on South Korean soil," he said.

All U.S. nuclear weapons were removed from South Korea in 1992.

But it has the ability to strike North Korea with nuclear weapons launched from U.S. territory or from submarines, and about 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

The North Korean government says it feels threatened by the U.S. nuclear and conventional forces, and that it is why it is developing nuclear weapons.

Einhorn is leading a team here to discuss revising a nuclear cooperation pact with Seoul. The present agreement, made in 1974, expires in three years. It prevents South Korea from reprocessing spent fuel from civilian nuclear power plants.

Some South Koreans object to any revisions, saying that could hurt efforts to get North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons programs.

An eight-year diplomatic effort to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program has stalled, and some conservatives here want the U.S. to bring back its nuclear weapons, if North Korea can not be made to disarm.

Among them is Song Young-sun of the Future Hope Alliance, a lawmaker who sits on the National Defense Committee.

"If you cannot do that, we need our own nuclear sovereignty," said Song. "The only way we can deter or negotiate or even dismantle North Korean nuclear weapons is when we have nuclear capability."

South Korean government officials say Seoul is not considering asking the United State to re-deploy nuclear weapons and has no intention of developing its own nuclear arsenal.