The South Korean military is prepared to launch a pre-emptive attack on North Korea’s nuclear installations if they become a military threat, Gen. Kim Tae-young, the newly designated chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a hearing yesterday.
It was the first time the military has confirmed contingency plans for a pre-emptive attack on Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities and comes as Seoul’s new conservative government is being closely watched for signs of how it will approach North Korea.
Speaking at his confirmation hearing in the National Assembly, Kim said the military has kept its options and contingencies ready in case of a military attack from the North.
“We would identify possible locations of nuclear weapons and make a precise attack in advance,” Kim said when asked what he would do if North Korea were to develop the capability and intent to attack the South with nuclear weapons.
Kim was the commander of the First Army and is a specialist in military strategy and tactics. “Our goal is to prevent North Korea’s nuclear weapons from exploding in our territory,” he told lawmakers.
In the past, officers designated to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff have not been subject to Assembly confirmation hearings, but that changed with recent revisions in the law on senior public servants.
Kim also expressed his determination to resist any changes in the so-called Northern Limit Line, the Yellow Sea border between the South and North. He said the line, which has been the site of deadly naval clashes, is “as significant as the land border,” and should be “protected at all costs.”
The line became controversial after former President Roh Moo-hyun agreed with Pyongyang to form a joint fishing area in the Yellow Sea to be used by both countries.
By Kim Min-seok JoongAng Ilbo / Jung Ha-won Staff Reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]