South Korea is forming a hit squad to eliminate North Korean leadership in a crisis, according to the defense ministry.
Seoul began considering the development of a “decapitation strike” team in 2015 as part of a broader strategy to enhance South Korea’s asymmetric warfare capabilities. “We will develop asymmetric strategies that give us a comparative advantage over the North, like psychological warfare, decapitation operations, intelligence advantage and precision strike capabilities,” a South Korean brigadier general said at the time.
After North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test in September 2016, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said that Seoul is “considering launching a special forces unit to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.”
North Korea tested a sixth nuclear device a little over a week ago, successfully detonating a possible staged thermonuclear bomb. Afterwards, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said that the South Korean military could have an operational before the end of the year.
It’s not exactly normal to announce plans to murder the leader of a sovereign state, but South Korea has been very outspoken about its plans. “The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong-un scared for his life,” Shin Wok-sik, a retired three-star general who served as a senior military strategist, told the New York Times.
South Korea has a three-staged defensive strategy that would be implemented in the event that a renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula appeared unavoidable.
The three stages to the South Korean defense strategy are the Kill Chain, the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system, and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan.
Stage one involves eliminating North Korean nuclear and missile facilities before a nuclear weapon can be fired once an imminent strike is detected. Stage two aims to intercept incoming missiles. Stage three involves surgical strikes and special forces operations against the North Korean leadership and critical strategic assets. The “decapitation squads” would play a very important role in the last stage of South Korea’s survival plan.
Kim Jong Un is reportedly deeply paranoid, fearing the possibility of assassination.
Kim’s public activities have decreased, he typically travels only at dawn, and he uses his subordinates’ cars, South Korea’s intelligence agency revealed in June.
North Korea has been highly critical of South Korea’s plans, issuing grand threats in response. The North has also put together its own “decapitation squad.” Kim Jong Un reviewed the combat readiness of Unit 525, a special unit created to “wipe out the human scum” in South Korea, late last year.
Both South and North Korea have attempted to assassinate the other’s leaders. In the late 1960s, the North sent special forces into the South to spread destruction throughout the presidential Blue House, but the operation was unsuccessful. South Korea then developed its own “suicide squad” out of criminals to murder North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, but the mission was aborted. The assassins openly revolted, killing their trainers and fighting their way into Seoul before taking their own lives.
It is unclear whether either side would be willing to give it another shot or if current plans are just fear tactics.
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