Note this correction:
Correction: March 6, 2013
An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the possible targets suggested in a warning by the South Korean military that, if provoked, it would attack the North’s “command leadership.” The statement was not meant to include the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un among the possible targets.
Some have asked why we don't cancel the ROK/US exercises since the north is making such dire threats and because the idea that our exercises could lead to conflict because the north might somehow act in "self defense" against the exercises that are perceived to threaten the regime? My response:
It would be a catastrophic mistake to cancel the exercise. All future diplomatic actions would be for naught as our credibility and legitimacy would be completely undermined. We would see even greater rhetoric and provocations from the regime.
We also should know that one thing the north will not do is attack into the face of a ready force (unless the regime's very survival is so threatened and there is no other choice but to execute its campaign plan to unify the peninsula under its control so as to assure regime survival - that is according to its own calculation - not mine!). But for the nKPA to conduct a successful attack it needs surprise and a superior correlation of forces which it cannot achieve as long as the ROK/US CFC is intact and certainly not during a readiness exercise. So in my opinion there is no need to cancel the exercise. That said whether we have an exercise or if we cancel it, provocation will not be deterred. It is very possible that the north will commit a provocation regardless of our actions or non-actions but we should not assess that in the same way as an attack.
But if there is a significant provocation then we are likely to see a ROK response which will hopefully be a decisive tactical response at the time and place of the provocation. It is a strategic response by the ROK against leadership targets that will cause the climb up the escalation ladder or worse a misreading of the situation by the regime who fears that a direct attack threatens the survival of the regime. As the Chinese say we are in for some interesting times.
March 6, 2013
Seoul Warns That North Korea’s Leadership Could Be Target
SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean military warned on Wednesday that if it was provoked by North Korea, it would strike the North’s “command leadership,” escalating a war of words and hinting at an attack on a North Korean headquarters.
The day before, the North Korean People’s Army threatened to attack the United States and its ally South Korea with “lighter and smaller nukes,” apparently in reaction to the United Nations Security Council’s consideration of new, tougher sanctions against the North over the nuclear test it conducted in February.
Bellicose statements from North Korea are nothing new, but their tone has grown bolder recently after apparently successful recent tests of a long-range rocket and a nuclear device, and especially in the past week, as the United States and South Korea began their annual joint military exercises.
South Korea usually does not respond to North Korean tongue-lashings, but it did on Wednesday, dismissing the North’s threat as mere propaganda.
Still, with officials and analysts here worried that North Korea might provoke a deadly skirmish sometime soon, to shake the new government of President Park Geun-hye in the South and to destabilize the region, the South Korean military called a news conference on Wednesday to deliver a categorical public warning.
“If North Korea attempts a provocation that threatens the lives and security of our people, our military will forcefully and decisively strike not only the origin of provocation and its supporting forces but also its command leadership,” said Maj. Gen. Kim Yong-hyun, chief operations officer at the military’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We make it clear that we are all prepared.”
(Continued at the link below)