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“The [South Korean] government remains committed to maintaining the principle of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” the Yonhap news agency quoted the minister as saying at a parliamentary session.
“While not pursuing independent nuclear sovereignty, I think [South Korea] can deter [the North’s] nuclear programmes by managing the extended deterrence provided by the United States,” he said.
Defence minister Kim Kwan-jin said the North “does not appear to be able to produce miniaturised nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them,” though it has been “ready to fire mid-range missiles with its own launchers.”
“We are working on how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear programmes by devising two concepts. One is making retaliatory measures in case of its firing of nuclear missiles, and the other is how to detect, control and target its nuclear weapons. We are developing extended-range interceptors,” the minister said.
Tensions have risen sharply on the Korean Peninsula since December, when North Korea tested a long-range Taepodong 2 missile, and in February carried out its third nuclear test, following tests in 2006 and 2009.
The UN responded with sanctions. The start of joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States last month further irritated the North, which threatened to carry out a nuclear attack on the US mainland, as well as on US forces in the region.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday met with South Korea’s foreign minister Yun Byung-se.
Referring to the recent strain in relations between North and South Korea, Li asserted that China would like to work with South Korea to diffuse tensions.
China has also reaffirmed its commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and opposes any instability in the region, Li urged.
A top US military officer has said on Wednesday that he believes China is trying to diffuse tensions in the region.
“I will leave here with the belief that the Chinese leadership is as concerned as we are with North Korea’s march toward nuclearization and ballistic missile technology, and they have given us an assurance that they are working on it, as we are,” US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general Martin Dempsey told reporters on the last day of a trip to China.
With inputs from Ria Novosti