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(2nd LD) S. Korea warns N. Korea's nuclear use would lead to regime's 'self-destruction'

17:10 September 13, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's meeting with former Pentagon official in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense ministry warned Tuesday that North Korea's attempt to use nuclear weapons would lead to its regime's "self-destruction," responding to Pyongyang's recent codification of an apparently assertive nuclear policy.

Col. Moon Hong-sik, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, issued the warning after the North promulgated a law on its nuclear policy on Thursday last week that hinted at the possibility of the regime launching a preemptive nuclear strike in a contingency.

"We warn that should North Korea attempt to use nuclear arms, it would face the overwhelming response from the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and its regime would enter a path of self-destruction," Moon told a regular press briefing.

Moon added the North's nuclear policy move would further strengthen the alliance's capabilities to deter and respond to the security threats, deepen its international isolation and aggravate the suffering of ordinary North Koreans.

In addition, he highlighted the South's "firm" resolve to push for the North's "complete" denuclearization and its focus on strengthening the credibility of the U.S.' extended deterrence to make the North unable to use its nuclear arms.

Extended deterrence refers to America's stated commitment to mobilizing the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear options, to defend its ally.

The North's announcement on the nuclear policy codification came as the allies are preparing to hold a session of the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) in Washington, D.C., on Friday for the first time since 2018.

The EDSCG, a gathering of the two countries' vice-ministerial defense and diplomatic officials, has not been held since its second and last session in January 2018, when the then liberal Moon Jae-in administration pushed for an initiative to promote inter-Korean rapprochement.

On Friday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported the law on its nuclear policy was promulgated.

The law stipulated that in case the command and control system over the country's nuclear forces is put in danger due to an attack, a nuclear strike will be launched "automatically and immediately."

The North's nuclear policy is expected to be part of discussions between the South and the U.S. that have been working on updating their joint wartime contingency plans to reflect the North's evolving military threats, observers said.

"I would like to say that the efforts to update wartime operational plans are ongoing at this point," Moon said of the plans that the allies agreed to update during their defense ministerial talks in December last year.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup met Michele Flournoy, the chair of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security (CNAS)'s board of directors, to discuss the two countries' alliance and North Korean threats, according to his ministry.

Noting the North has hinted at its intention to use nuclear weapons, Lee called the security situation here "very grave," and stressed that the allies are maintaining a firm combined defense posture to counter the threats.

He added that there would be "substantive" discussions between Seoul and Washington about strengthening their defense posture during the EDSCG session later this week.

Lee and Flournoy, who served as under secretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2012, agreed to work together in the process of the two countries' partnership developing into a global comprehensive strategic alliance, the ministry said.

This photo, released on Sept. 12, 2022, by the defense ministry, shows Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (R) visiting a frontline Army unit to inspect troops' readiness. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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