South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has said the country is prepared to launch a preemptive strike should North Korea make moves to use nuclear weapons in the future.
“If there is a clear intent that North Korea is about to use a nuclear weapon, we will eliminate it first even at the risk of a war,” said General Jung Seung-jo at a National Assembly defense planning session, the Korea Times reported.
“A preemptive 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," he added.
The statement comes as North Korea continues to discuss plans of a third nuclear test.
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Seoul Geoffrey Cain said, however, that the likliehood of a preemptive strike actually happening is low.
"Since the Korean War ended in 1953, Washington has held back Seoul from carrying out any military provocation, fearing the consequences would be devastation," he said.
Jung later tempered his statement, saying that the plan would be "a limited approach, not all-out escalation," according to Korean news source the Hankyoreh.
"What is clear as evidenced by its preparation for another nuclear test is that the North has no intention of renouncing its nuclear program," Chun In-young, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, told Asia One.
"Whether we recognize its nuclear power status or not, whatever the rhetoric Seoul and Washington may use to describe the North's nuclear programs, Pyongyang will have crossed the threshold through the next test. Then, Seoul needs to craft a new deterrence strategy," he continued.
A date for North Korea's test has not been set, but is expected to occur sometime this month, according to the Korea Times.
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