South Korea’s defense minister assured legislators this week that his government would complete the creation and training of a “decapitation unit” to attack North Korea if necessary by the end of the year. While Seoul has referenced the plan in the past, officials appear to be expediting it in response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test.
The New York Times quotes defense minister Song Young-moo as saying that the special forces brigade in question would be ready to enter North Korea and attack should communist dictator Kim Jong-un preemptively strike the country. “Defense officials said the unit could conduct cross-border raids with retooled helicopters and transport planes that could penetrate North Korea at night,” the newspaper reports, adding that Song made clear the unit’s orders would not immediately be to decapitate the North Korean government.
The idea for such a unit has been around for months, with Korea’s Joongang Daily mocking American mainstream media for picking it up late in January. Whether the plan would continue following the impeachment of president Park Geun-hye remained unclear, however. The new plan would expedite its creation.
The unit appears to be part of a multifaceted plan to pressure North Korea out of attacking South Korea or the United States. Pyongyang’s state propaganda outlets threaten the total destruction of both countries on a nearly daily basis. In response to the United Nations Security Council passing new sanctions against the regime on Monday, for example, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) vowed to “redouble the efforts to increase its strength” and accused America of “employing all sorts of despicable and vicious means and methods” against it.
North Korean UN envoy Han Tae Song previously threatened to use “the ultimate means” to punish the nations who passed the sanctions, though he did not specify what those means consist of.
South Korea had announced Tuesday that it would be seeking new diplomatic efforts to contain North Korea’s belligerence. “Diverse diplomatic measures are under consideration to intensify the international community’s pressure on the North in case it continues its provocations,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told reporters, according to South Korean news outlet Yonhap.
On Monday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha warned North Korea was “on a reckless path” and presents one of “the biggest challenges on our foreign affairs and security front.”
“By all measures, the impact of the sixth test has been many times stronger and wider than the fifth conducted in September last year. The price of its continued provocations in blatant disregard of the peace-loving members of the international community will be instability and economic hardship,” Kang concluded.
The aggressive stance in Seoul differs significantly from the campaign of president Moon Jae-in, who promised to seek dialogue with the communist regime and even encouraged Pope Francis to get involved. While Moon’s leftist approach brought him to office, the Kim regime has become increasingly belligerent since he took office, and Moon himself has begun pushing for greater military preparedness, reportedly telling military leaders to be ready to “quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation that crosses the line or attacks the capital region.” Moon has also ordered more military exercises and missile tests to prepare for a potential attack.