News / Asia

Rising Voices in S. Korea, Japan Advocate Nuclear Weapons

An analyst monitors from a computer screen in the control room of the international nuclear test monitoring agency CTBTO, in Vienna, February 12, 2013.
An analyst monitors from a computer screen in the control room of the international nuclear test monitoring agency CTBTO, in Vienna, February 12, 2013.
North Korea's claim this week to have successfully conducted a third underground nuclear test is prompting some in South Korea and Japan to advocate possessing their own such weapons. 

Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, June 2, 2010 file photo.Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, June 2, 2010 file photo.
x
Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, June 2, 2010 file photo.
Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, June 2, 2010 file photo.
South Korean lawmaker Chung Mong-joon of the governing Saenuri (New Frontier) party made such a remark during a meeting of his colleagues from the National Assembly, comparing the situation with North Korea to “a gangster in the neighborhood buying a brand-new machine gun” and trying to defend oneself with merely a pebble.

Chung is no fringe politician. He is the country's wealthiest lawmaker through his controlling shares in the Hyundai Heavy Industries group.

The JoongAng Ilbo, major South Korean newspaper, terming North Korea's latest test an existential threat to Seoul, questions whether the country should arm itself with nuclear weapons and if the United States will ultimately protect it if Pyongyang were to threaten a nuclear attack.

A spokesman for the opposition Democratic United Party, Park Yong-jin, criticizes the ruling party for failing during the past it is not possible to solve the problem of North Korea's nuclear program with a South Korean nuclear armament.

Another option is reintroducing U.S. nuclear weapons onto the Korean peninsula. 

But South Korea “is not considering bringing in tactical nuclear weapons right now because the priority is to make North Korea give up its nuclear armament,” says Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.

The nuclear debate is not limited to South Korea.

Japan also concerned

Former four-term Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, now a member of parliament, and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, has openly stated his country should have nuclear bombs to counter China, North Korea and Russia.

Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo February 14, 2013.Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo February 14, 2013.
x
Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo February 14, 2013.
Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo February 14, 2013.
In a VOA interview just hours after North Korea announced its latest nuclear test, Japanese defense minister Itsunori Onodera commented that his country's pacifist constitution restricts Tokyo “when it comes to having nuclear weapons” and thus strengthening the U.S.-Japan security alliance is the key response.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, is among those advocating revision of Article 9 of the constitution which prohibits Japan from maintaining a war potential.

Getting China's attention

Some international observers contend the pro-nuclear statements from Seoul and Tokyo are in part intended to get the attention of policy makers in Beijing.

“I'd really like to think that that's really what's happening is that their trying to make a political statement to try to get China interested in dealing with the problem,” says
Carl Baker, director of programs at the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bi-partisan U.S. think tank. “Ultimately the politicians in Seoul and Tokyo believe that the only way we're going to get North Korea really interested in not pursuing nuclear weapons further is by having China tell them to stop.”

Non-Proliferation Treaty

Baker, a former political and economic analyst for U.S. Forces Korea, cautions that any moves by South Korea or Japan to initiate a nuclear weapons program would not find approval in Washington.

“It'll be received very negatively because we have, of course, always ensured South Korea and Japan that we provide an extended deterrent capacity to them,” he says. “There is the Non-Proliferation Treaty which requires people who don't possess nuclear weapons to not possess nuclear weapons. For South Korea and Japan to basically disregard the treaty would be a very bad step.”

Both countries are protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and host thousands of American troops and several major military bases.

Despite that, South Korea and Japan in past decades appear to have considered clandestine nuclear weapons development.

Secret programs

A secret South Korean program under a “weapons exploration committee” during the dictatorship of the late President Park Chung-hee existed in the 1970s. His daughter, Park Geun-hye, is to be inaugurated as president February 25, succeeding Lee Myung-bak, who was limited to a single five-year term.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in 2004 concluded that South Korean scientists, in previous years, had produced a very small amount of fissile material that could have been placed in a weapon.

South Korea's government at the time contended it had not authorized the experiments.

Japan reportedly undertook, in the 1960s, a secret study on building nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata in 1974 stated Japan certainly had such a scientific capability. In 2006, then foreign minister Taro Aso repeated that assertion and argued Article 9 did not prohibit Japan from having nuclear weapons for self defense.

Aso would later become a prime minister and is currently the deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Both South Korea and Japan each have dozens of commercial nuclear power plants - a potential source of ample fuel for such weapons.

South Korea wants revision of its atomic energy agreement with the United States to allow Seoul to reprocess spent fuel to use in future fast breeder reactors and reduce its stored nuclear waste. Washington has resisted altering the pact amid fears that the fuel could be used for nuclear weapons.

Talks on the agreement are expected to be held after the new Park administration takes office.

In Japan, a former overseer of the country's atomic energy program told VOA, on condition he not be named, that he has been approached by several influential lawmakers asking him how quickly the country, with its highly advanced technology, would be able to construct a viable nuclear weapon.

Officials in Tokyo and abroad have been quoted anonymously in the past as saying the answer to that question would be six months or less.

Youmi Kim in the VOA Seoul bureau contributed to this report.

  • An extra edition of a Japanese newspaper was delivered reporting North Korea's nuclear test, in Tokyo, February 12, 2013.
  • South Korean protesters burn a North Korean flag following a report of the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2013.
  • Japan Meteorological Agency's earthquake and tsunami observations division director Akira Nagai points to a spot on the map showing the quake center during a news conference in Tokyo, February 12, 2013.
  • South Korean soldiers check military fences as they patrol near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, in Paju, north of Seoul, February 12, 2013.
  • A screen grab of the Nuclear Test Facility site in North Korea, via Google Maps satellite view.
  • South Korean soldiers monitor computers at the Seoul train station following a report about a possible nuclear test conducted by North Korea, February 12, 2013.
  • A video grab from KCNA shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control center in Cholsan county, North Pyongang province December 12, 2012.
  • North Koreans celebrate the successful launch of the Unha-3 rocket at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang December 14, 2012. The sign reads: "Let's glorify dignity and honor of great people of Kim Il Sung and of Korea of Kim Jong Il in the world!"

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
    Next 
by: Pedro
February 19, 2013 2:06 PM
If China continues to disrupt the world's attempt to punish North Korea's erratic behaviour, S.korea & Japan should arm themselves with nukes. At least until N.korea gives up its nuclear ambitiions.

Anything short of a full embargo against N.Korea is too lenient!

Obviously, the last thing China wants to see is nuclear armed Japan, so by continuously helping N.Korea, they will only be punishing themselves in the near future...


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
February 18, 2013 2:21 AM
During the WWII, nukes were used first by the winner of its developing race. At that time, the purpose of using atomic bombs included not only punishing opponent but confirming its power of destruction. Now it is proved that nukes have enough power to kill hundreds of thousand of innocent citizens in a flash. Who could launch such awful arms as it is apparent they also would get counter attack with nukes? Who could be the second, North Korea? Iran? Pakistan? Russia? or US?


by: Kanaikaal irumporai
February 17, 2013 11:44 AM
This means that the wider world, that still believe in eradicating nuclear weapons, should consider self imposed sanctions, boycott on the individual plane, against companies like the ones like MR. Chung Mong Joon's Hyubdai. This is a move in disguise to arm themselves with deadlier weapons, that can and sure will be used against the US and others in a Perl-harbor like attack. If they go ahead on their own, like the Indians did and the North-Koreans and the Mullahs in Tehran trying to do believing that any sanctions are short lived and will eventually be lifted,they fear, that their business would collapse dues to sanctions, that's why they choose this brilliant path.


by: Tom Gillilan
February 16, 2013 8:47 PM
"Baker, a former political and economic analyst for U.S. Forces Korea, cautions that any moves by South Korea or Japan to initiate a nuclear weapons program would not find approval in Washington."

Washington is a failed government structure incapable of protecting its own citizens from foreign invasion and conquest. The politics of Washington is the politics of a loser.


by: Anonymous
February 16, 2013 7:41 PM
North Korea isn't a threat to the US yet, but could be in the future, and they keep threatening to destroy our cities and so on and so forth. Obviously, they're leaving us with no choice but to take off and nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.


by: Mike Havenar from: New York City
February 16, 2013 6:16 PM
So what's the Plan? Are policymakers going to wait until this declared and implacable enemy of the United States has 10-megaton bombs and precision ICBMs, before they take out their nuclear facilities and teach the North Korean leadership, with a nuke or two, that the nuclear path is a dead end for them?


by: Percy Pepper from: UK
February 16, 2013 5:08 PM
"Chung is no fringe politician. He is the country's wealthiest lawmaker through his controlling shares in the Hyundai Heavy Industries group."

He's in politics to help the little guy. The fact that HHI are heavily involved with the nuclear industry is irrelevant, he just want's to make sure that all the little guy feel nice and safe from the evil North while they live out their short minimum wage life in the service of HHI.


by: Wes from: United States
February 16, 2013 11:45 AM
"...questions whether the country should arm itself with nuclear weapons and if the United States will ultimately protect it if Pyongyang were to threaten a nuclear attack. ..."

Maybe. But only within the first six months following a presidential election; after that, not a chance. The six month window might open up a little bit with a lame duck president, but not much.


by: Nohu from: Japan
February 16, 2013 8:20 AM
I can't understand why people think that more nuclear weapons are needed for deterrent. I think it's political way for the peace, but there is no humanity. Do not forget Nuclear weapon's purpose is just only killing many many people. There is no meaning making nuclear weapons. And people also do not forget that The United State of America is only country that used nuclear weapon for human. So it's very crummy that America posses nuclear and prohibit other country from having and testing it. As a Japanese , We must tell the truth the fear of nuclear. We are only race that was used nuclear weapon at world war Ⅱ. So it is beside the question that Japanese insist on having nuclear, and other country also do not posses nuclear weapon.We must be know the only way for the real peace is all country abandon the nuclear weapon. So why not they abandon it?

In Response

by: David N from: United States
February 17, 2013 7:41 AM
North Korea and Iran would easily lose in a non-nuclear war with many other countries, the US included. They want nuclear weapons primarily to make the US think twice about doing to them what they did to Iraq and Afghanistan, so in that sense it's a perfectly rational deterrence strategy from their perspective.

What I'm more worried about is North Korea, desperate for cash, selling their nukes to private groups, or Iran, keenly interested in seeing *someone* blow up Israel, giving one of theirs away and having plausible deniability when it gets used, thus avoiding nuclear retaliation.

In Response

by: Matt from: Boston
February 16, 2013 2:11 PM
Nohu, so why do you think the USA used nuclear weapons on Japan? It's crummy, but justified. Japan and Germany were the axis of evil and started WW2 and caused millions of deaths. Japan invaded Pearl Harbour and awoke the "sleeping giant"!

Leason learned maybe?


by: zero from: Asia
February 16, 2013 2:57 AM
If Japan drop 200 nuke on China, China will still lives, but if China drop 200 nuke on Japan, Japan will be finished. Take a look at their land mass respectively. By the way how many nuke do it need to explode on the earth surface to disturb the atmosphere to make the weather like Hollywood? Peace.

In Response

by: Chiang from: Singapore
February 20, 2013 1:38 AM
200 is enough to wipe out the entire world. It doesn't require 200 to wipe out entire China, or US, or Iran, or any country. The power of nuclear weapons nowadays are 20-400 times bigger than the ones dropped in Japan. it only takes 1 or 2 and the radiation will make the rest of place inhabitable.
http://www.businessinsider.com/this-chart-shows-the-terrifying-power-of-modern-nuclear-bombs-2012-6

In Response

by: Kaushik from: India
February 16, 2013 2:49 PM
If 200 nukes are dropped on China, then the situation will be such that the survivours will envy the dead. There will be such ghastly effect of radiation that China will not be inhabited by likes of people shown in Resident Evil(US film)).
So dont think of the unthinkable. Peace!

Comments page of 3
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid