South Korean President Says Country Could Develop Nuclear Weapons


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said the country could develop its own nuclear weapons or ask the U.S. to redeploy them on the Korean Peninsula if the threat from North Korea grows, in the first time a leader of the country has explicitly raised the prospect in decades.

The prospect of South Korea, a nonnuclear state, acquiring its own weapons threatens to destabilize nuclear disarmament efforts and inflame already high tensions with Pyongyang. The idea has long been rejected by the U.S. and previous administrations in Seoul, although polls have shown it is supported by a majority of the public in South Korea.

“If the issue becomes more serious, we could acquire our own nuclear weapons, such as deploying tactical nuclear weapons here in South Korea,” Mr. Yoon said after meeting South Korean defense officials on Wednesday. “But it is important to choose realistically possible options,” he added, saying that the U.S. and South Korea are discussing sharing information and jointly executing plans to deter North Korea’s nuclear threat.

South Korea’s presidential office released the remarks on Thursday, stressing that there had been no change in the country’s policy of abiding by the Nonproliferation Treaty. “In order to effectively deter North Korea’s threats, our government has been focusing on strengthening the U.S.-South Korea extended deterrence,” the presidential office said.