South Korea firmly believes that “if [it is] attacked by a nuclear weapon, the United States will use the same weapon” against the attacker.

In a conversation with The Hindu on the current inter-Korean crisis, South Korea's Ambassador to Singapore Oh Joon said: “Both South Korea and Japan are under U.S. nuclear umbrella. That means: if we are attacked by a nuclear weapon, U.S. will use the same weapon. [However] there is no U.S. nuclear weapon stationed in South Korea.”

Mr. Oh did not raise or imply the possibility of a nuclear strike by North Korea against his country at this time. But his articulation of Seoul's confidence in the reliability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella acquires importance because North Korea has atomic weapons.

Speaking to The Hindu from Tokyo, Japanese spokesman Hidenobu Sobashima said: “We rely on the U.S. for the security of Japan. Therefore, we feel that Japan-U.S. security arrangement is very important and we don't feel there is inconsistency between this security arrangement and what we pursue under nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

Mr. Sobashima was answering questions whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella for Japan was an issue in the ongoing talks between Tokyo and New Delhi for a possible civil nuclear pact. He would not go into the “contents” of these talks, but his comments are relevant to the current inter-Korean crisis, which has forced Japan also to go on alert.

On the ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercise, which began on Sunday in the same sea-area where North Korea bombed Yeonpyeong Island a week ago, Mr. Oh said: “The exercise was not [originally] designed as a response to this incident. It was planned earlier. But we will make more efforts to make this exercise more responsive to such a situation [in the future].” Noting that “self-defence was proportionate to the attack we received” a week ago, he emphasised that South Korea's response, “from now on, is not going to be proportionate [and] it can be punitive.”

“There is [also] no reason for China to be not constructive … in reining in North Korea. …. China is our largest trading partner and … there are more common interests than differences in how to deal with North Korea. China might be taking different approaches sometimes, but its eventual goals regarding the Korean peninsula are same as South Korea's and the United States',” said Mr. Oh.

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