The country should obtain atomic weapons despite a possible international backlash, Oh Se-hoon says
The conflict in Ukraine proves that South Korea needs to obtain nuclear weapons in order to counter the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea, Seoul's mayor has said.
"North Korea has nearly succeeded in miniaturizing and lightening tactical nuclear weapons and secured at least dozens of warheads," Oh Se-hoon said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.
In such a situation, "it is difficult to convince people with the logic that we should refrain from developing nuclear weapons and stick to the cause of denuclearisation," he added.
The mayor of Seoul, which hosts nearly half the country's population of 51 million, said the Russia-Ukraine conflict has convinced him that South Korea should seek a nuclear deterrent.
"Russia freely violates Ukraine's airspace, flying bombers and firing missiles... but Ukraine barely attacks Russian territory because of the psychological inferiority to a nuclear state," Oh said.
According to the capital's mayor, South Korea should push towards obtaining nukes regardless of the possible international backlash and sanctions.
"There may be some initial resistance from the international community, but I believe that it will gain more support eventually," he suggested.
Oh has been one the most high-ranking officials in President Yoon Suk Yeol's conservative People Power Party to advocate for South Korea to go nuclear, with his current statements appearing to be the most hawkish to date.
Polls suggest that his views are shared by many in the country, with a survey by Data Research in early March revealing that 70% of South Koreans support developing nuclear weapons.
The Seoul mayor's interview came on the day that US and South Korea forces launched major 11-day drills, entitled Freedom Shield 23.
As the exercises got underway, North Korea test-fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine, saying the system confirmed its reliability.
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Last week, Pyongyang insisted that the continuing military exercises between Washington and Seoul were "clearly" a sign that the US is preparing for war with North Korea. "The risk of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is shifting from an imaginary stage to a realistic one" because of such "belligerent armed demonstrations," it warned.