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Korea nuke-Carnegie forum


By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Yonhap) -- An upcoming forum will address one of the most contentious issue between South Korea and the United States -- whether Seoul should develop its own nuclear weapons.

The North Korean nuclear crisis will also be discussed at the 2013 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, set to begin April 8 for a two-day run.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will participate in the event, which will include a session on a renewed call in South Korea for "nuclear sovereignty," according to the organizer.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Rep. Chung Mong-joon, a seven-term lawmaker, will deliver a keynote speech, followed by discussions with U.S. experts on the issue.

Chung, former leader of the Saenuri Party, is a long-time advocate of South Korea's development of nuclear weapons.

He has publicly emphasized South Korea needs to have a nuclear capability to cope with North Korea's nuclear threats.

"In the Carnegie seminar, Mr. Chung is expected to detail his view that South Korea should develop nuclear weapons," a diplomatic source said.

The Carnegie seminar is one of the highest-profile academic events on nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament. This year's event will draw dozens of government officials, politicians and pundits from around the world, including Yukiya Amano, director-general of the IAEA.

Although a relatively small group of conservative politicians and experts in South Korea openly claim that the country should own nuclear bombs, U.S. officials are apparently concerned about that call.

In a recent forum here on the South Korea-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation, some U.S. State Department officials asked several questions on the possibility that Seoul will press ahead with nuclear weapons.

It is a potential deal breaker in the ongoing talks on revising a bilateral nuclear agreement slated to expire in March next year.

South Korea is hoping to expand its non-military nuclear programs and win Washington's consent for uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel. The U.S. remains reluctant as it strives to strengthen a global nonproliferation regime.

The South Korea-U.S. civilian nuclear accord issue will also be addressed at the Carnegie seminar.

Chang Soon-heung, with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, will attend the conference, the Carnegie institute said. He is a nuclear energy aide to South Korean President Park Guen-hye.

Park Ro-byug, a career diplomat serving as South Korea's chief negotiator with the U.S. on rewriting the 40-year-old nuclear agreement, had been scheduled to join the forum. But he has changed his mind and decided not to participate, a source close to the official said.

"Amb. Park seems to believe it is not appropriate to appear in a forum in which it will be discussed whether South Korea should develop a nuclear program, not only for peaceful but military purposes," the source said.

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