South Korea ‘has very strong concerns’ the US might strike North Korea, ex-CIA Korea expert says

Kim Jong Un. Photo: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) release/Getty
  • The former director of the CIA’s Korea division just returned from Seoul and said that officials there have “very strong concerns” about the US attacking North Korea.
  • President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly considering a strike.
  • The former CIA agent said some people think the US could hit two or three targets that North Korea wouldn’t launch a full war over.

An ex-CIA agent from the agency’s Korea division recently returned from South Korea and found widespread worry that the US is gearing up for a military strike against North Korea.

“Seoul has very strong concerns about the potential for a US ‘preventive attack’ on North Korea,” Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the CIA Korea division, told NBC.

Klingner’s comments follow persistent reports out of the White House that the US is considering a “bloody nose” strike on North Korea to make a statement, and that President Donald Trump’s secretary of state and secretary of defence are the key figures holding him back.

Klingner seemed to pick up on a fear in Seoul of an attack even greater than a “bloody nose,” which would be a highly visible yet materially limited strike.

“Some are suggesting that the US is thinking of hitting two or three targets, and that North Korea would likely respond proportionately,” Klingner said. “Not the all-out artillery barrage on Seoul.”

To attack North Korea in such a way that they would notice, yet restrain their response to something short of all out war,would require meticulous planning, flawless execution, and a healthy dose of luck, as no one can surely say exactly how Kim Jong Un would react.

Experts have panned the idea of a strike on North Korea with near unanimity, but Trump’s administration has constantly touted the use of force as a potential tool.

Trump’s National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, the hawkish voice on North Korea within his inner circle, reportedly said at Davos that “the danger is growing” from North Korea and has become a “grave threat” to the US.

McMaster, according to a personal doctrine he expresses in talks and writing, believes using military force against the US’s weaker enemies could cow them and show them who is in charge.

But with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics going on until mid-March, it seems unlikely the US would decide to strike now.