After North Korea’s latest successful nuclear test, the Hermit Kingdom isn’t the only nation that’s using colourful rhetoric to publicize its militaristic intentions.
In response to the “higher level” fifth nuclear test conducted by North Korea last week, Yonhap News Agency reports that South Korea’s Defence Ministry made public its plans for an extensive bombing operation called “Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation” (KPMR).
“Every Pyongyang district, particularly where the North Korean leadership is possibly hidden, will be completely destroyed by ballistic missiles and high-explosive shells as soon as the North shows any signs of using a nuclear weapon,” a South Korean military source told Yonhap.
“In other words, the North’s capital city will be reduced to ashes …”
KPMR outlines a preemptive strike on high-profile North Korean leaders, including Kim Jong-Un, in the event of either a war or the use of nuclear weapons is determined to be an imminent threat.
“The defence ministry’s … [KPMR] is aimed at wiping a certain section of Pyongyang completely off the map,” the military source stated in Yonhap.
In order to achieve these goals, South Korea has plans to mobilize its own arsenal of ballistic weapons — the Hyunmoo missiles, or “Guardian of the Northern Sky” — that have a range of up to 600 miles.
The total number of Hyunmoo missiles South Korea has in its arsenal is unknown, after reports surfaced of its intention to bolster production of the home-grown missile last month.
To supplement bombing runs and missile strikes, Yonhap also reported that a source indicated a special operations unit had been founded with the purpose of taking out North Korean military leaders.
“This military unit is dedicated to targeting the North Korean leadership and launching retaliatory attacks on them,” he stated in Yonhap.
Since Seoul’s statement was released, two US B-1 bombers, accompanied by South Korean F-15K fighter jets, performed a low-altitude show-of-force over Osan Air Base, about 48 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
But just like the doubts that accompany North Korea’s frequent threats, foreign policy experts share the same sentiment for South Korea’s KPMR plan.
In a Japan Times interview, Georgetown University professor Victor Cha claimed that although the possibility of a plan to strike Kim Jong Un and other military leaders may exist, it would be “more an expression of anger and frustration than a strategic attempt to deter the adversary.”
Additionally, Peterson Institute for International Economics analyst Kent Boydston also hinted at the difficulty of South Korea’s plans.
“Certainly North Korea would take precautions against a decapitation strike and it is unlikely that South Korea and the US could know exactly where the top leadership is located in a crisis,” Boydston stated in The Japan Times.
Given the nature of the rhetoric behind both Koreas’ preemptive and subsequent retaliatory strikes, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where mutually assured destruction isn’t a possibility.
“It is also hard to imagine a decapitation strike not escalating to broader hostilities,” said Boydston.