10,000 missiles will do

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10,000 missiles will do

Nam Se-gyu

The author is a former director of the Agency for Defense Development.

North Korea has carried out a new type of missile test. It fired a missile from a submerged launcher in a reservoir to demonstrate its ability to launch ballistic missiles undetected from under water. The novel concept is a new threat, as Pyongyang showed it can stealthily fire ballistic missiles even without a submarine. After its sixth nuclear test and launch of the Hwasong 15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in 2017, North Korea complied with denuclearization talks to buy time to advance its nuclear weapons program in various aspects. Many kept to the naïve belief that North Koreans would not dare to use nuclear weapons against their own race in the South.

But Pyongyang in September legislated a preemptive nuclear attack philosophy against South Korea. While chanting peace over the last five years, North Korea has been perfecting weapons of mass destruction. It has developed solid fuel-based missiles capable of maneuvering in mid-flight for greater precision and effectiveness in a surprise attack and diversified its launch vehicles.

As a submerged launcher would be hard to detect in advance, questions linger over the plausibility of our preemptive strike system. North Korea’s army could be gloating that they have discovered an inventive way to avoid the Korean preemptive strike Kill Chain system.

According to security experts, a feared seventh nuclear test would be threatening from the symbolic standpoint rather than from a technology aspect. North Korea has carried out six tests and fully demonstrated its nuclear capability. It has already unveiled pictures of miniaturization technology to fit nuclear warheads onto missiles.

Uncle Sam protecting its ally with nuclear arsenals to prevent North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons had been the pillar of the extended deterrence policy of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. The U.S. can protect its territories against nuclear missiles from North Korea. But if the North fires a nuclear missile at the U.S., its nukes cannot survive counter nuclear attacks from the U.S.

The South Korean government was right to specify the capabilities of extended deterrence. The joining of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in naval drills and anti-submarine drills will raise the credibility in the extended deterrence. As former U.S. President Donald Trump said, a “bigger and more powerful nuclear button” would be the best deterrence against nuclear-ambitious North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But the balance in nuclear terror based on the mutual assured destruction (MAD) would critically weaken if a dictator does not fear the consequences of mass destruction. To ready against the contingency of a failure in deterrence, Seoul must cooperate with Washington to take the initiative in countering North Korean nuclear capabilities.

The South Korean three-pillar strategy based on the Kill Chain preemptive strike system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system, and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) system can be the most effective means. The Kill Chain aims to strike down North Korea’s nuclear missiles or destroy launchers to prevent a second attack. It can bomb mines used as a nuclear base or tunnels to transport missiles or dams so that underwater launches from reservoir cannot be possible.

The KAMD system unifies the surveillance and inspection capacity of the Kill Chain and uses AI to identify missiles with nuclear warheads for precision strike and defense. Radar and interceptor missiles should be advanced to defend the country from a barrage of mixed missiles from North Korea. A strategic command should be created in South Korea. If North Korea carries out another nuke test, South Korea must put the three-pillar system into effect and upgrade the system. I propose producing 10,000 precise and powerful conventional missiles within the next 10 years to effectively dissuade Kim Jong-un from using nuclear weapons against South Korea.

It is the only way to counter North Korean nuclear threat with less cost than building our nuclear armaments. We must start building up the most advanced non-nuclear capabilities to deter the growing North Korean nuclear threat.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Dailt staff.
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