By Jun Ji-hye
|Rep. Won Yoo-chul|
Won said Monday he and a few fellow lawmakers will open the forum on Aug. 4.
They will hold a monthly meeting to discuss the development of a South Korean nuclear arsenal. But he has yet to reveal the other participants.
The five-term lawmaker said South Korea should be allowed to arm itself with nuclear weapons to better defend against North Korean threats and play a leading role in resolving regional security issues.
"There is a need for a paradigm shift in dealing with the North's provocations including the launch of ballistic missiles. We now need a substantial action plan to better deter the North," Won said. "I have prepared the forum to put a new twist on policies toward North Korea, and this would include nuclear armament."
Citing the mounting speculation that the North is likely to carry out an additional nuclear test around July 27 to mark the anniversary of what it claims is its victory in the 1950-53 Korean War, Won said the South should seek a "trigger strategy" that ensures the nation automatically pushes for nuclear armament once the North conducts such a test.
The idea apparently came from the U.N. Security Council's (UNSC) "trigger clause" that allows the council to automatically discuss sanctions and take immediate steps should there be another nuclear test or long-range missile test.
He said that the new changes in coping with the North are necessary because various diplomatic efforts including holding six-party talks and imposing harsher UNSC sanctions have failed to stop the totalitarian state's provocations. The six-party talks, aimed at denuclearizing Pyongyang, include South and North Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, but have been stalled since late 2008 due to the uncooperative North.
Won noted that he is currently inviting others who are willing to join the forum, and will announce a list of participants early next week.
Those who have advocated for a nuclear-armed South Korea within the governing party include former Saenuri Party chairman Chung Mong-joon.
Won cited U.S. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's earlier remarks that he would withdraw U.S. forces from South Korea and Japan unless the two substantially increased their payments for the deployment of those troops.
"The nation's defense situation is like a candle in front of the typhoon," Won said.
In February, a month after the North carried out its fourth nuclear test in violation of U.N. resolutions, Won first officially talked about developing South Korean nuclear weapons during his speech as floor leader in the National Assembly.
But his argument caused controversy as it was in stark contrast with the government position to stick to a 1992 inter-Korean denuclearization declaration. The declaration states that the two Koreas will not develop or hold any nuclear weapons.
A government official said on condition of anonymity that calls for a nuclear-armed South Korea are "unrealistic," as this will pose a serious challenge to international nuclear nonproliferation.
"There is little to be gained by pushing for nuclear weapons, and much to be lost," the official said.