|Hwang Kyo-ahn, chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), speaks during a party meeting in South Gyeongsang Province, Monday. / Yonhap|
By Park Ji-won
Hwang Kyo-ahn, chairman of the largest opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), showed positive signs on having nuclear weapons in South Korea, reversing his stance on denuclearization while calling for a debate to discuss preparing for the worst case scenario.
In a written congratulatory message for the LKP's Shim Jae-cheol's parliamentary seminar on nuclear armament, Hwang said Thursday, "Considering our country's reality in which the worst circumstances cannot be eliminated, having independent nuclear armament can no longer be overlooked."
He added "South Korea's own nuclear armament would not be an easy job but it should be discussed nationally and internationally."
He also criticized the government's cooperative stance on North Korea saying it puts national security at risk, and weakens the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
His remarks came after the breakdown of the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump without a certain agreement on denuclearization of the North amid concerns Pyongyang may not give up its nuclear arsenal.
Hwang claimed earlier he agrees with the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, but it would not be acceptable in international society to talk about having new nuclear weapons as the world is moving toward denuclearization.
Critics say his move is likely to attract right-wing figures before general elections next year. Far-right figures in the party and right-wing organizations have been claiming having nuclear weapons in the South would protect national security against the North.
Recently, the LKP has been stepping up criticism against President Moon Jae-in's North Korea policy. On Wednesday, its floor leader Rep. Na Kyung-won was caught in controversy over her remarks during an Assembly speech where she called Moon a "top spokesman" for North Korea.
A recent poll shows that the party's approval rate continues to rise posting some 32.3 percent this week thanks to the criticism against the administration, after the recent fruitless summit between the leaders of North Korea and the U.S., fueling concerns about the government's North Korea policy.
Meanwhile, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) criticized Hwang for preventing the Korean Peninsula from continuing the peace momentum.
"Chairman Hwang is currying favor with the conservatives with an impossible claim," Lee Hae-shik, a spokesman of the DPK, said in a statement.
"Having nuclear weapons to stop the North's nuclear power is not helping anyone to make peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Lee also said Hwang should be ashamed that he changed his stance on the matter.