By Jung Ha-Won
As nuclear-armed North Korea's missile stand-off with the US escalates, calls are mounting in the South for Seoul to build nuclear weapons of its own to defend itself -- which would complicate the situation even further.
The South, which hosts 28,500 US troops to defend it from the North, is banned from building its own nuclear weapons under a 1974 atomic energy deal it signed with the US, which instead offers a "nuclear umbrella" against potential attacks.
But with Pyongyang regularly threatening to turn Seoul into a "sea of flames" -- and nagging questions over Washington's willingness to defend it if doing so put its own cities in danger of retaliatory attacks -- the South's media are leading calls for a change of tack.
South Korea, which fought a war with the North that ended in a stalemate in 1953, is highly technologically advanced and analysts estimate it could develop an atomic device within months of deciding to do so.
"Now is time to start reviewing nuclear armament," the Korea Herald said in an editorial Friday.
After Pyongyang conducted two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile last month, putting much of the mainland United States within reach, the paper warned: "Trust in the nuclear umbrella the US provides to the South can be shaken."
It urged Washington to deploy some of its atomic weapons to South Korea if it did not want to see a nuclear-armed Seoul.
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