The intention of a strike would be self-defense against nuclear strike, but risk of war is inevitable
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
By Kang Tae-ho, senior staff writer
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded on Feb. 6 that the South Korean military would risk war in attempting a preemptive strike against North Korea if signs of an imminent nuclear weapon launch against the South were detected.
Speaking before a plenary session of the National Assembly’s national defense committee, Jung Seung-jo clearly stated that the military was willing to take the risk when asked about it by Saenuri Party (NFP) chairman Yoo Seong-min.
However, Jung held back when asked about the possibility of the preemptive strike leading to total war, replying, “I wouldn’t necessarily say that.” His response suggested that the military‘s plan would be a limited approach, not all-out escalation.
As a rationale for the preemptive approach, Jung said that if North Korea makes it clear that it plans to use a nuclear weapon, it would be better to remove that option, even if it meant going to war, than to go to war having already suffered a strike. His remarks presented a different concept of the preemptive strike from other observers who have suggested it as a means of preventing North Korea from developing weapons, characterizing it instead as a necessary exercise of self-defense rights to prevent the tremendous damage of a nuclear weapon strike.
But questions remain as to who would make the call, and on what basis, as to what constitutes either Yoo’s “signs of an imminent nuclear weapon launch” or Jung’s “making clear its plans to use a nuclear weapon.”
Experts said that given North Korea’s current nuclear weapons capabilities, plans need to be made to prevent a clash between the two sides from escalating into nuclear war.
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