WASHINGTON — South Korea‘s defense minister says she has doubts North Korea will use a nuclear weapon against South Korea or the United States.

Responding to an audience question at the Fullerton Forum, hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Monday in Singapore, Song Young-moo wrote off nuclear threats by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as mere “propaganda.”

“It’s an anachronistic idea that North Korea will use nuclear weapons for the unification (of the two Koreas),” Song said.

A nuclear strike launched from the North toward the South — or the United States — would invoke a response that would remove “the North Korean regime” from the map, effectively making such an attack “suicidal,” he added.

A man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)
A man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

The minister stressed that South Korea remains committed to achieving the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. This effort is part of South Korea’s “process toward peace and our goal and our basic position that can never be yielded,” he said.

These statements align with what South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha shared with global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. “The [North Korean] nuclear issue has to be solved through negotiations and diplomatic endeavors. This idea of a military solution is unacceptable,” she said.

However, she conceded that another North Korean nuclear test or the equivalent would “not be acceptable” and would likely result in further sanctions.

Nuclear and arms control expert Kingston Reif said on Twitter that these statements were “a clear rebuke” to the White House’s approach to North Korea’s nuclear program.

But despite any differences of opinion, Kang insisted South Korea and the U.S. are “on the same page on all fronts.”