Seoul must be ready for a pre-emptive strike if threatened with a nuclear attack by its northern neighbour, Defence Minister Kim Tae Young said on Wednesday. “We would have to strike (North Korea) right away if we detected that it has a clear intention to attack (South Korea) with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying by the Yonhap new agency.
Waiting for an actual launch “would be too late and the damage too big” the minister told a defence forum. At the same time, Mr. Kim did expressed hope that Pyongyang would return to stalled international talks to end its nuclear weapons programme. “We need to go strong on one hand while also striving not to let the talks slip away as there is a possibility of North Korea rejoining the six-party talks,” he added.
Mr. Kim’s warning came five days after Pyongyang threatened to cut off all contact with South Korea and to launch a “pan-national holy war of retaliation.” That threat was a response to Seoul’s updating its plans of action to follow in the event of a collapse of the North Korean regime. The revisions to the scenarios were reported in the South Korean press last Friday.
The harsh exchange notwithstanding, representatives of both countries met for the second consecutive day Wednesday in Kaesong to discuss improvement to the jointly run industrial zones in the North Korean border town. Mr. Kim was reported in the national press to have made similar comments about a possible pre-emptive strike two years ago when still chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. At that time, Pyongyang had recently threatened to destroy the state of South Korea and also fired several short-range missiles off its west coast.