South Korea's top security ministers expressed strong concerns that Seoul may be sidelined in the process of disarming North Korea of nuclear weapons, as the United States and North Korea are set to open direct negotiations.
In unusually bold comments against North Korean, South Korea Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said on Friday that the prime target of Pyongyang's nuclear bombs was South Korea, stressing that the country's communist neighbor was attempting to dominate the South by force.
"It is dangerous and naive to believe that North Korea's nuclear weapons involve only the United States and to doubt that the North would ever use the weapons on the South," Yu said. "It is North Korea's goal to unify the country through communization and the nuclear weapons were developed for that purpose."
"The nuclear standoff is not a bilateral issue between the United States and North Korea, but our problem and a regional and global problem of nonproliferation," Yu said. "The reason North Korea is repeatedly insisting on direct talks is because it wants to be recognized as a nuclear state in order to proceed with arms reduction talks with the United States."
Yu also said the South and the North cannot coexist unless Pyongyang abandons its nuclear programs, strongly indicating that Seoul would not resume economic aid without tangible progress in the denuclearization process.
Seoul's pointman on North Korea, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, also said any direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington must be firmly based on removing nuclear weapons in the North.
"Over the past decade, we've seen negotiations with North Korea resuming and stalling" with the standoff deteriorating, Hyun told a security forum in Seoul. "We should not forget this lesson from the past."
In an even stronger note, Seoul's new defense chief Kim Tae-young told Parliament that he would order an attack on the North should it deploy tactical nuclear weapons, saying his government has confirmed where the North stores its nuclear weapons.