North Korea challenged Secretary of Defense James Mattis, rejecting his assertion that there are military options on the table that will not result in the destruction of Seoul.
“There is no military action against North Korea that will leave Seoul or South Korea unscathed,” North Korean state media warned Monday. “All of South Korea will become wreckage,” it added.
“If the war in the Korean Peninsula occurs due to the warlike mad war of the US, it could threaten the entire South Korean nation,” the Rodong Sinmun, the outlet of the ruling Communist party, explained, according to South Korean media reports.
Last month, Mattis suggested that there are military options that would not leave Seoul, which is in range of North Korea’s artillery and short-range ballistic missiles, destroyed, but he did not elaborate on what those options might be, leaving observers to speculate about possibilities ranging from cyberattacks to regime change.
WATCH NORTH KOREA’S LATEST VIDEO OF MISSILE LAUNCH:
The secretary of defense’s comments were surprising because he previously expressed concern about the threat to Seoul should a conflict once again break out on the Korean Peninsula.
“It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we have seen since 1953,” he explained to Congress in June. “It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth.” Mattis was clearly referring to Seoul, which is home to a metropolitan population of roughly 25 million people.
Perhaps Mattis was responding to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who argued in August that the use of military force in Korea would kill millions in South Korea.
“There’s no military solution [to the North Korea problem], forget it,” Bannon said at the time, “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
North Korea reportedly has a theory that were a conflict to break out on the peninsula, it would need to delay American intervention for three days to take all control of all of Korea. Some suspect that North Korea might use its intermediate and long-range missiles to keep the U.S. at bay, hindering America’s ability to reinforce the troops fighting in South Korea.
There is a debate as to whether North Korea’s ultimate ambition is reunification or simply the preservation of the regime. Either way, the North believes that nuclear weapons are essential to keeping the U.S. at arm’s length. North Korea has long been determined to drive a wedge between South Korea and its primary security guarantor.
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