Worst-case scenario

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Worst-case scenario

Diverse analysis and assumptions have arisen since a fleet of B-1B Lancer strategic bombers and F-15C Eagle fighters flew over international waters off the North Korean coast at night over the weekend. The flight across the Northern Limit Line on the East Sea drew extraordinary attention because it was the first dramatic show of force by the U.S. military since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Military analysts say that the bombers’ stealthy flight to conduct a drill to precisely strike North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s bunker and other nuclear and missile bases constitutes an ultimatum from U.S. President Donald Trump that he cannot allow Kim Jong-un to fire missiles anywhere any longer. The U.S. aircraft’s flight was made without South Korean fighter jets’ escorts, as it was a solo mission of the U.S. forces relying on two B-1B bombers from Guam and fighters jets from Okinawa Air Base in Japan. That raises concerns about the United States bypassing South Korea at times of crisis.

But the mission could be another military option the United States has, because it could be one of the ways for America to swiftly finish a war by averting the possibility of China stepping in. If Washington mobilizes the U.S. Forces Korea under the head of the Combined Forces Command — who also serves as the commander of the UN forces in South Korea — it could offer justification for China to intervene.

To confine the conflict to the one between Washington and Pyongyang, a U.S. Forces’ solo maneuver is unavoidable. That also could serve as the most effective deterrent against North Korea, which is inches away from testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. The unilateral military campaign could be what U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis meant by “a military option that would not put Seoul at grave risk.”

But even if the United States strikes North Korea, there still remains a possibility of the North retaliating against the South. No matter how much damage a U.S. precision strike may incur in the North, a huge loss of life in the South is unavoidable. South Korea must augment its alliance with the United States and put maximum pressure on North Korea. Seoul also must maintain the upper hand in conventional weapons. Leaders of this country must have a keen sense of the tense situation before it’s too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 26, Page 30
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