South Korea says no plans to introduce nuclear submarines
South Korea's Defense Ministry on Monday said it had no plans to introduce nuclear-powered submarines, despite calls by lawmakers to do so, following a recent test of a submarine-launched missile by rival North Korea.
The ballistic missile, travelled 500 km, the greatest distance achieved by North Korea for such a weapon. Last week's test caused jitters among many South Koreans because submarine-based missiles are harder to detect before launch than land-based ones.
A group of 21 ruling party lawmakers issued a joint statement on Sunday, calling for the introduction of nuclear-powered submarines to better deal with increasing security threats from North Korea. But the Defense Ministry on Monday said it has no such plan, without elaborating.
Acquiring nuclear submarines is a sensitive issue for South Korea because it could trigger opposition from nations such as the USA and China amid worries about a regional arms race.
After North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January, some conservative lawmakers and scholars demanded that South Korea develop its own nuclear weapons, but the government dismissed the request.
The USA, which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, has long said the protective "nuclear umbrella" it provides to South Korea is meant to deter an attack on its ally by North Korea.
North Korea is seeking to develop nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching the continental US Outside experts say the country doesn't yet have such weapons.