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South Korea will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, President Moon says via Chicago Tribune

President Moon Jae-in told lawmakers on Wednesday that South Korea would not seek to have nuclear weapons and said that Seoul would never accept its neighbor North Korea as a nuclear-armed state.

“According to the joint agreement by the two Koreas on denuclearization, North Korea’s nuclear state cannot be accepted or tolerated. We will not develop or possess nuclear weapons either,” the president said in his second state of the nation address at the National Assembly, South Korea’s parliament.

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The United States stationed nuclear-armed weapons in South Korea during the Cold War until 1991, when President George H.W. Bush withdrew all tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad, though the country remains protected by North Korean nuclear weapons under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

After North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 6, a number of politicians suggested that the South should reconsider its own nuclear weapons program. In the weeks after that test, a group of lawmakers from South Korea’s opposition party, the Liberty Korea Party, came to Washington to ask for the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to the country.

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However, Moon has remained adamantly against nuclear weapons in South Korea and repeatedly said he would not consider redeployment due to the possibility of raising tensions with North Korea unnecessarily. During a recent visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to Seoul, both Mattis and Song dismissed the idea of redeploying nuclear weapons.

“When considering national interest, it’s much better not to deploy them,” said Song, while Mattis said that U.S. strategic assets already provided the necessary deterrence.

Despite Moon’s strong opposition to nuclear weapons, recent polls have shown that a majority of South Koreans favor them. A poll conducted by Gallup Korea in September found that 60 percent of South Koreans supported nuclear weapons for their country in theory, a number consistent with other polls conducted recently.

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