South Korea is speeding up its plans to create a military force tasked with eliminating Pyongyang’s leadership – including Kim Jong-Un – in the event of war,Sky News reports.
The special unit was originally supposed to be ready by 2019, but the plans are being accelerated amid a tide of aggressive rhetoric from its rival and neighbour North Korea, which has been threatening nuclear attacks on its enemies.
South Korea’s defence minister Han Min-Koo said the special unit, known as the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan, would now be launched two years ahead of schedule.
“We are planning to set up a special brigade with the goal of removing or (at least) paralysing North Korea’s wartime command structure,” he told acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, according to the Yonhap news agency.
He also warned of a “strategic or tactical provocation” from the North in the coming months. The military unit forms part of a three-pronged defence strategy which includes an anti-missile system – the Korean Air and Missile Defence (KAMD) – which would trace and shoot down missiles heading for South Korea.
There is also a “Kill Chain” pre-emptive military strike programme to counter an imminent threat. Mr Kim used his televised New Year’s message to boast his country was in the final stages of developing a long-range missile.
In response, US President-elect Donald Trump tweeted: “It won’t happen.” North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and test-fired several ballistic missiles in 2016. It has continued to attempt to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programme in the face of international condemnation and UN sanctions.
But despite the progress, experts believe it is years away from developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fitted with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the US, a key ally of South Korea. North and South Korea remain technically at war after fighting ended in 1953 with an armistice, but no peace treaty.