2003 May 12 Monday
Direct Threat To Kill Kim Jong-il Is Useful Method Of Deterrence

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il went into hiding for 50 days starting in mid February because he is fearful the United States will try to kill him with precision guided munitions.

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, went into seclusion during the final buildup to the war in Iraq because he feared that he too might be the target of attack. That has led the Pentagon to consider new ways to hold him at risk as a method of deterrence on the peninsula, officials said.

The US review of force deployment in and around North Korea is focusing on identifying high priority targets and developing the ability to hit them all in a relatively short period of time. However, the US has one big problem: it needs to develop a good way to rapidly take out the artillery pieces and rocket launchers that are aimed at Seoul and other targets in South Korea.

The Washington Times recently interviewed South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul and Roh made it clear that he does not want South Korea to become a batteground for implementing the preemption strategy.

I fully understand the mood and the circumstances that gave rise to such a doctrine. But I would like to discuss with President Bush that the circumstances on the Korean Peninsula may not be appropriate for applying this principle from the very beginning.

The reason for this South Korean reticence is easy to understand: they do not want to be killed in a massive North Korean artillery and missile barrage.

About half of South Korea's 46 million people live in or near Seoul, which is about 30 miles south of the world's most heavily fortified border and within range of an estimated 12,000 North Korean artillery pieces. U.S. officials fear that casualties in the first two weeks of a war could top 1 million, mostly civilians.

Some estimates of deaths from a major missile attack on Seoul with chemical warheads run into millions killed.

For South Korea the perception of the threat from the North is not growing as much as it is for Japan and the United States. The South Koreans have long lived under the threat of the artillery. Some of the artillery shells and missiles probably can carry chemical and perhaps even biological agents.

What the United States military needs to do is to turn the technical prowess of defense contractors toward coming up with ways to rapidly destroy the artillery which North Korea has buried in caves on mountainsides and hillsides. This should be pursued in parallel with economic sanctions and a major effort to break the North Korean regime's information monopoly over its own people.

Update: President Roh does not want US troops pulled back away from the DMZ. The US wants to move them away for a few reasons. The most notable reason is that if the US launches a preemptive attack on North Korean nuclear weapons facilities the US does not want US soldiers within range of a North Korean retaliatory artillery shelling aimed solely at US troops.

The US has a basic problem: US and South Korean security needs have diverged. What does the most to protect the US will cost a great many South Korean lives. While it is possible that a US strike against North Korea will save more South Korean lives in the longer run the South Koreans are not convinced of this.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 12 10:56 AM  Korea


Comments
Patrick said at May 14, 2003 9:28 PM:

Where did that figure of 46 million South Koreans come from? I lived in SK for a while, and I remember the figure was about 80 million.

Randall Parker said at May 14, 2003 9:41 PM:

Patrick, The CIA World Factbook puts it at slightly over 48 million. The Washington Times reporter probably looked at an older atlas. News reporters frequently do that in my experience.

80 millon? Never saw such a high figure for SK population.


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