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S. Korea intensifies its dangerous "Kill Chain" tactics in response to the nuclear threat from North Korea

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  Some experts claim that South Korea's approach of preparing for preemptive attacks in the event of a...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  Some experts claim that South Korea's approach of preparing for preemptive attacks in the event of a nuclear attack by North Korea could escalate their arms race and increase the likelihood of strategic errors during a confrontation.

Yoon Suk-yeol, the president of South Korea, who took office in May, has openly placed more emphasis on the so-called "Kill Chain" system to thwart a nuclear assault from North Korea.

Kill Chain, which was first created ten years ago as North Korea accelerated the development of its nuclear weapons, called for immediate military action against the North's missiles and perhaps even its top officials if an impending attack is discovered.

According to several analysts and former officials, the system is a reasonable but extremely dangerous and possibly unreliable means to try to address North Korea's nuclear threat.

According to Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the United States, the implied threat made against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is extremely unstable.

"I can understand why threatening to assassinate the leadership of a nuclear-armed state is uniquely terrifying," he added. "Leadership decapitation is appealing for South Korea."

The proposals, according to Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), are "the most likely path to a nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula."

He wrote on Twitter, "This is the *military* option that is most likely to succeed." But it's also the option most likely to set off a nuclear war and unpredictable escalation dynamics.

In response to a request for comment on these issues, the South Korean Ministry of Defense remained silent.

Yoon has previously stated that strengthening the system is essential to ensuring that North Korea never really conducts an attack.

expanding arsenal

Yoon's administration declared this month that a Strategic Command will be established by 2024 to direct preemptive and retaliatory strike plans. It consists of a progressively larger arsenal of ballistic missiles, F-35A stealth aircraft, and new submarines that have been demonstrated in ever more drills.

In order to detect North Korean targets without the assistance of the US, South Korea is also working to create its own satellites and other technologies.

The effectiveness of a preemptive strike, however, is questioned by certain academics.

North Korea has conducted tests of hypersonic missiles and rockets that it claims are capable of carrying tactical nuclear bombs recently, which has reduced the amount of time Seoul would have to respond to an impending strike.

Kim has good reason to believe that he can use his nuclear weapons sparingly and yet live, according to Panda.

Meanwhile, an emphasis on decapitation attacks would persuade Kim to deploy riskier command and control techniques in a crisis, like giving out nuclear authority so North Korea's weapons could be used even if he is dead, Panda continued.

America Alliance

According to European defence experts Ian Bowers and Henrik Stalhane Hiim, the core of South Korea's plan is a safeguard against U.S. desertion. "If the United States abandons South Korea, its deterrent effect, however dubious, acts as a temporary stopgap."

These worries were made worse when former President Donald Trump suggested he would withdraw American troops from the peninsula and asked that Seoul pay billions of dollars more to support them.

The United States maintains operational command over the allied forces during times of war and has deployed about 28,500 troops on the peninsula.

According to Park Cheol-kyun, who until May worked on international strategy at the South Korean Defense Ministry, the development of such capabilities did not always reflect concerns about American promises.

According to him, the new Strategic Command would have a new operating system and command structure and would bring "synergy" to the Kill Chain weapons and associated systems to improve deterrent and response capabilities.

A former senior U.S. official with knowledge of the issue said that any preemptive strike would have to be done in cooperation with the United States, which is an uncomfortable fact for South Koreans who want to project independent machismo to the North.

The former official stated that carrying out a preemptive strike "would not be an act of self defence, and by definition this would fall under the category of an Alliance decision." The official noted that opening fire on North Korea without provocation would constitute a "serious violation" of the Armistice Agreement, which has been in effect ever since the 1950–1953 Korean War came to an unofficial halt.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, declined to comment on the deployment of military equipment or military planning with South Korea but stated that bilateral agreements will determine the alliance's force posture.

While maintaining its commitment to diplomacy, the United States "will continue to take all necessary actions to ensure the security of the United States and our allies," he declared.

According to Mark Esper, a former U.S. secretary of defence under Trump, self-defense is a core concept that, if required, includes preemptive strikes.

"A preemptive strike might be justified in that circumstance," he continued, "if we had clear intelligence that North Korea was preparing to undertake a nuclear attack on Seoul."

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