With North Korea showing no signs of abating its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, the communist country’s ultimate goal is to become a regional nuclear power like India and Pakistan, a security expert said Monday.
From North Korea’s perspective, the ideal amount of nuclear arsenal to achieve such a status is as many as 120 weapons, similar to what Pakistan and India hold, and the North is seeking to achieve that goal before 2025, said Kwon Hyuk-chul, a security professor at Kookmin University.
“The estimate is what North Korea thinks is required for it to become a nuclear power in the region and maximize the nuclear arsenal’s strategic values,” the professor said at a security forum in Seoul.
“It is sufficient to serve the goal, yet is not too much to put unnecessary burden on Kim Jong-un (to develop or manage.)”
|North Korea`s leader Kim Jong-un. Yonhap|
Taking into account various scenarios, top US nuclear expert David Albright estimated in his report last year that Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons stockpile could continue to grow to as many as the 50-100 weapons before 2020.
Before North Korea can reach the “end state” in its nuclear ambition, South Korea and the US should come up with viable military options to stop the North, Kwon said.
Among those pre-emptive strike schemes, the most effective is to destroy the North’s missile site, because it runs less risk for escalation into an all-out war than taking out nuclear facilities, the professor added.
“When US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talked about military options that do not put Seoul at risk, I think this is the move viable option,” said Kwon. “Compared to attacks on nuclear facilities, it carries less risk of drawing massive retaliation, but serious enough to undermine Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambition.”
For South Korea to consider its own pre-emptive strike, the most important thing is to have prior consultation with the US and reach consensus across the political spectrum, said Shin Won-sik, former vice chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When it comes to conducting a clandestine assassination scheme against Kim Jong-un and other leaders in the North, Shin said the plan is “cost effective,” but it could provoke massive military conflict between the two Koreas.
“In terms of cost-benefit analysis, a decapitation plan is the most effective military option,” he said, referring to the title of the clandestine assassination plan. “But it involves the risk of escalating into an all-out war.”
Hosted by nonprofit think tank Hansun Foundation, the security forum dealt with South Korea’s military option against North Korea. The event was attended by security scholars and retired generals, such as Lee Sang-hee, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By Yeo Jun-suk(firstname.lastname@example.org)