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S. Korea Could Seek Deployment of US Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Gert Vandersmissen, director-general of SIAT Gabon

South Korea's defense minister says his country may consider having U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed on its soil for the first time in 19 years.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young raised the possibility Monday during talks with a parliamentary committee about North Korea's latest nuclear escalation. He said the issue could be raised when a joint U.S.-South Korean military committee meets next month to discuss North Korea's nuclear programs.

The United States removed its last tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in December of 1991. A Defense Ministry spokesman told VOA that until now, the country had not considered having them reintroduced.

The Associated Press quoted a ministry spokesman saying the effect of the weapons would be mainly psychological since South Korea is already protected by the American nuclear umbrella.

The Seoul government was prompted to consider the step by reports that North Korea has a sophisticated uranium enrichment program and claims to have 2,000 working centrifuges. A U.S. scientist who visited the facility said it appears to be designed to produce fuel for electricity-making reactors but could be adapted to make fuel for nuclear weapons.