Any U.S. military strike on North Korea would result in instant retaliation against South Korea, a former senior North Korean official said before Congress.
Thae Yong Ho, the highest-ranking official to defect from North Korea and a man the reigme branded as “human scum,” testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday that the North Korean officers tasked with the country’s defense have been trained to open fire at the slightest provocation without additional commands, suggesting that even a limited strike would rapidly escalate.
“North Korean officers are trained to push the button without any further instructions from general command if something happens,” Thae explained, “If there is any sound of fire, bombs, or strikes from Americans, the military, artillery, and short-range missiles will fire on South Korea.” The former diplomat who defected last year stressed his confidence that the U.S. and its allies would emerge victorious in a war against North Korea, but he cautioned against reckless military action, noting the “human sacrifice” in such a conflict.
“If there is any preventive or surgical strike or whatever, I think the war will be won by America and South Korea; there is no doubt about it,” he added, “But we have to see the human sacrifice from this military option.”
North Korea’s massive artillery force has long been regarded as a serious threat to Seoul, a massive metropolitan center that is home to millions of people. The North also possesses short-range ballistic missiles capable of possibly delivering a conventional, nuclear, or biochemical payload to South Korea.
“There are 21 battalions” just over the border, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo explained to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, pointing to the North. “Defending against this many [long-range artillery units] is unfeasible.” North Korea has tens of thousands of artillery units along the border, which is only 35 miles from the South Korean capital.
A Congressional Research Service report concluded that as many as 300,000 people could perish in the first few days of a conflict, and that is without the use of weapons of mass destruction. (RELATED: BLOODBATH: War In Korea Would Kill Hundreds Of Thousands In Days, Even Without Nukes)
Leading North Korea experts have long assessed that there is no such thing as a limited strike on North Korea, arguing that the North would need to respond quickly. It would also potentially use of weapons of mass destruction to wage war against the superior capabilities of America and its regional allies, assuming it intends to survive the fight.
Thae suggested that the U.S. and its international partners continue the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, strengthening economic sanctions while increasing diplomatic isolation in order to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. He also called on the U.S. to step up efforts to push information into North Korea to discredit the belief that North Korean Kim Jong Un is a god and pull the country out of ignorance.
“Tell the people how stupid the system is … it is not a paradise, it is the worst system in human history,” he said. If people become aware of the poor conditions in which they live, the “North Korean government will have to change or face the consequences of [the people’s] escalating dissatisfaction.”
He also suggested that the U.S. push China to stop repatriating North Korean defectors.
“North Korean system would collapse in a very short period of time,” he explained to the congressional leaders.
Thae also argued that the U.S. should talk to Kim and tell him what is at stake. “We should tell Kim Jong Un that America is ready to use all military options if Kim Jong Un continues this process,” he said, referring to the development of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to distant shores.
“We should tell Kim Jong Un that if he stops this process and gives up his ambition of ICBM and nuclear development, America is ready to help Kim Jong Un build its economy and make North Korea prosperous country,” he added.
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