As North Korea issues new threats of nuclear war against the United States and the rest of the world on an almost daily basis, the country’s neighbor to the south, the Republic of Korea, has had enough of the antics of strongman Kim Jong-un and is ordering a massive military buildup aimed at completely destroying the North if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula.
The ROK, better known as South Korea, is a close United States ally whose military cooperates closely with United States forces. The United States has stationed troops in South Korea since 1957, with those troops under orders to “deter aggression and, if necessary, defend the Republic of Korea.” More than 23,000 U.S. troops remain in South Korea today, the third largest U.S troop presence in any country.
On Thursday, South Korean military leaders presented a plan to the country’s National Assembly to beef up the ROK’s ballistic missile forces, creating the capability to quickly eliminate Kim Jong-un’s front line missile systems.
At the same time, the South Korea Navy unveiled a plan to add a new fleet of KDDX Aegis destroyer vessels equipped with powerful ballistic missiles that would be aimed directly at the North Korean center of political power in Pyongyang — an attack that would aim at striking Kim Jong-un himself.
“We will focus on improving our capability to strike the North Korean leadership and core targets inside the North’s ballistic missile operation area,” South Korea’s Naval Operations Chief Um Hyun-seong said on Thursday. “We are maintaining a combat posture to retaliate strongly if the enemy provokes.”
The military also presented a plan to the Assembly to strengthen the South’s arsenal of non-nuclear ballistic missiles that would be launched directly at North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities, destroying the North’s nuclear strike capabilities before Kim Jong-un gets a chance to use them in a possible war.
What South Korea does not have are nuclear weapons stationed on ROK soil, but one top military expert is calling for the country to develop its own nuclear capability which could be used in a pre-emptive strike against the North. But those nuclear weapons would need to come from the United States.
“It is nearly impossible for South Korea to secure its own nuclear capabilities,” said Choi Kang of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a top South Korean think tank, on Thursday. “Seoul needs to draw and review measures that promotes the logic of ‘balance of terror’ — which can be obtained through deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. Redeployment of tactical nuclear arms along with deployment of strategic assets will bring about a meaningful result.”
In September, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the two allies have “discussed the option” of stationing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea — but as a deterrent against North Korea rather than to facilitate a possible first strike by the South.
But in a move that could escalate tensions with the North, Donald Trump is reportedly planning to personally visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone during Trump’s 12-day Asia trip next month. The visit would likely take place on November 7.
While there is no internationally recognized border line between North and South Korea, the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, along the 38th Parallel serves as a demarcation line between the two countries. The DMZ is about two-and-a-half miles wide and 150 miles long, with each country maintaining a heavy military presence along its respective side of the zone.
Four U.S presidents have visited the Korean DMZ starting with Ronald Reagan in 1983, followed by Bill Clinton 10 years later. George W. Bush toured the DMZ in 2002 while President Barack Obama paid his visit in 2012.
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]