A majority of South Koreans believe Seoul should respond to North Korea's nuclear test announcement by starting its own nuclear weapons programme, a survey said on Thursday.
North Korea said on Monday it detonated a nuclear device, causing great anxiety in the South, which is still technically at war with its neighbour and directly in the firing line of the North's 1.2 million-strong army.
According to a poll by the major daily JoongAng Ilbo, 65 per cent of respondents said South Korea should pursue a path to making itself a nuclear weapons power.
About as many said the government's policies of engaging their reclusive communist neighbour have failed. "South Koreans have become much more critical of the government because of the test," said a pollster, who helped conduct the survey but who asked not to be named.
South Korean government officials have said in the wake of the test that Seoul has no plans to start a nuclear weapons programme and reminded its citizens that it is protected by the US nuclear umbrella.
More than 75 per cent of respondents also felt the government should revise the way it engages the North in economic and humanitarian cooperation because of the nuclear test, the survey said.
For almost a decade, South Korea has tried to ease tensions and pave the way to eventual reunification by sending aid while backing projects such as an industrial complex in a North Korean border city where South Korean firms make goods using cheap North Korean land and labour.
The survey was conducted on Tuesday among 760 adults contacted by telephone with a 3.6 per cent margin or error.