South Korea hosts war games as debate grows over North's nuclear arsenal
The US and South Korean deployment of new vehicles and robots for defense against nuclear weaponry reflects fears that North Korea, in a leadership struggle and desperate for food, might be tempted to use them.
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Mr. Yoo believes, however, that “it’s rather premature to accept that argument” – and now is not the time for South Korea to have its own nuclear weapons.Skip to next paragraph
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“The US and China should press further for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons,” he says. “Otherwise the nuclear arguments of South Korea will get a bigger voice.”
The topic inspires bitter controversy. “Many people say we must have nuclear weapons,” says Choi Young-jae, policy commissioner of the National Unification Advisory Council, another nongovernmental organization, “but I think that issue is not so easy.”
Japan and Taiwan might also become nuclear powers, he notes, while many countries, including South Korea’s ally, the US, would strongly object. At the same time, he says, South Korean liberals and leftists, already deeply critical of the country’s conservative government, would protest, perhaps vehemently.
Back at the US base
For the time being, Taylor, in charge of maneuvers at this historic base midway between Seoul and the demilitarized zone that’s divided the Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean War, places the array of weaponry on display for a stream of visitors in a broad context. “The threat of weapons of mass destruction is global,” he says. “The threat is constantly evolving, and we are constantly evolving our capabilities.”
South Korea’s Defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, has announced plans to deploy helicopters on islands near North Korean territory and to repeat large-scale exercises in the area – an act of defiance that North Korea promises to counter with more attacks. US and South Korean ground forces, moreover, are planning live-fire exercises next week on training grounds within earshot of the North Koreans.
Nothing more seriously dramatizes concerns about North Korea’s ultimate intentions, however, than deployment of a range of devices for defense against weapons of mass destruction that the North has tested but never used in warfare.
The Army shipped four huge Stryker reconnaissance vehicles, including sensors for sniffing out just about every imaginable “nuclear, chemical, and biological contamination” and relaying warning messages, to join the one that is already here. For the next week or so they’ll be practicing with South Korean vehicles in rough terrain south of the demilitarized zone.
While playing war games here at Camp Casey, talk of debate seems remote. “Don’t ask us about North Korea,” says an officer, standing beside General Taylor. “We can’t answer those questions.” All Taylor will say when pressed is, “My soldiers are the experts in their fields, training to deter aggression against all kinds of threats” – in this instance, the worst-case scenario of North Korea actually using the deadliest weapons it’s got.