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North Korea Crisis

South Korea leaves door open to US nuclear weapons

Seoul not interested now but will keep ear open to public opinion, foreign minister says

SEOUL -- South Korea is not currently considering redeploying American nuclear weapons within its borders, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told international media here Monday, without explicitly ruling out the option amid North Korea's continued nuclear and missile development.

Sixty percent of respondents to a poll published Friday supported the idea of the South possessing its own nuclear weapons. Kang acknowledged the shift in public opinion and stressed that any policy decisions will be based on a comprehensive review of military and strategic value, the regional context, and nonproliferation norms.

But she also said new President Moon Jae-in's government had not considered the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons or discussed the issue with Washington.

Last October, a senior national security aide to then-President Park Geun-hye raised the issue of redeploying American nuclear weapons with a U.S. National Security Council staff member, only to be turned down, the South's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported Monday.

The U.S. stationed nuclear arms in South Korea after the Korean War but has since removed them from the peninsula.

On economic relations with the U.S., Kang defended the bilateral free trade agreement, calling it a mutually beneficial pact that Seoul is proposing to strengthen. U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a withdrawal from that deal.

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