SEOUL — South Korea’s ruling party chief said Tuesday North Korea should be viewed as a nuclear power, a comment that runs counter to the long-held position by Seoul and Washington.
“Internationally, a country could be recognized as a nuclear power if it carries out two to three nuclear tests,” Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the Saenuri Party, said in a meeting with college students in South Korea’s second-largest city of Busan.
North Korea — which conducted three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 — has indicated no intention of giving up its nuclear programs as it views them as a deterrent against what it claims is Washington’s hostile policy against it.
In 2012, North Korea revised its constitution to describe itself as a nuclear power.
Still, South Korea and the United States have said they will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power.
Kim’s comment came a month after Van Jackson, a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said North Korea has now become a de-facto nuclear power. Jackson served as a strategy adviser and a senior country director for the Pentagon from 2009 to 2014.
Kim made the sensitive comment as he called for the deployment of a U.S. missile system, called the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery that is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in their terminal stage.
South Korea is struggling to walk a diplomatic tightrope between the U.S., Seoul’s key ally, and China, Seoul’s largest trading partner, over whether to allow the U.S. to deploy a THAAD battery to South Korea.
Washington hopes to deploy the THAAD in South Korea to counter ballistic missile threats posed by North Korea, saying it is a purely defensive system.
Still, China has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the possible deployment of a THAAD battery in South Korea, suspecting it is part of U.S. attempts to contain a rising China.