South Korea will launch a pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang if the antagonist to its north moves to test a nuclear weapon. Seoul said a first strike would be preferable to North Korea getting an atomic weapon, even if it risked open war. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jung Seung-jo said Seoul would take action even if it meant risking war with its northern neighbor. Pyongyang recently announced it will conduct a nuclear bomb test in the near future, raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
General Seung-jo maintained it would be better to risk open war with Pyongyang than have it strike first. Describing a pre-emptive attack as a necessary defense tactic, he went on to say it was paramount that the North does not manage to develop a nuclear weapon. “If [the North] shows a clear intent to use a nuclear weapon, it is better to get rid of it and go to war, rather than being attacked,” said the general, addressing the Joint Chiefs. He added that ”a pre-emptive attack against the North trying to use nuclear weapons does not require consultation with the United States and it is the right of self-defense.” The DPRK was quick to react to Seoul’s comments, condemning them as “warmongering.”
“They do not know what a real war is like and they would shudder after experiencing our military’s spirit to attack in a single breath,” wrote North Korean news site Uriminzokkiri, calling the South “vicious traitors of the nation.” North Korea has stepped up its aggressive rhetoric against Seoul recently, following a UN Security Council resolution in January that approved new sanctions against the rogue state. Pyongyong was enraged by the financial penalties and pledged to take “measures to boost and strengthen our defensive military power including nuclear deterrence.”
Following the announcement of the sanctions North Korea announced it would conduct its third nuclear weapons test, stressing that targeting the US and South Korea was not out of bounds. “We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are aimed at the United States,” North Korea’s National Defense Commission says. Pyongyang successfully conducted a ballistic missile test back in December, demonstrating that it has the potential to launch long-range rockets. North Korea claimed the December launch was to put a satellite into orbit, while it was perceived by the international community as a veiled attempt at testing Pyongyang’s missile capabilities.
International fears center around Pyongyang’s ability to construct a nuclear warhead small enough to be carried on a missile. UN inspectors believe North Korea does not possess the adequate technology, but Seoul maintains it is getting dangerously close.