U.S. intelligence officials assessing North Korea’s recent bellicose statements are increasingly concerned that Kim Jong-un could use his limited nuclear arsenal as part of offensive military attack that would be calculated to improve the prospects for reunifying the country rather suffering a collapse of his regime.
According to officials familiar with unclassified assessments, the North Korean leader and his military hampered by economic sanctions and a declining conventional military force remain paranoid about a U.S. military offensive.
The regime is also growing increasingly worried that China will not support its fraternal communist ally and so could calculate that it must launch a military attack. Pyongyang also fears the Chinese will replace the Kim family dynasty with a pro-China puppet regime.
Mr. Kim may take a page from his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who launched the Korean War in part because he feared losing power.
The North Koreans are calling their strategy “the spirit of the offensive.” It calls for decisive, surprise attacks carried out very rapidly.
The strategy also calls for a four-front war against South Korea and the United States involving strategic missiles with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to destroy U.S. and allied military bases. It would launch conventional military strikes through the demilitarized zone and into South Korea. Special operations commandos would mount rear-guard attacks. Cyberwarfare would take down critical infrastructure.
A North Korean nuclear strike could translate into a long-range missile either a Taepodong-2 or KN-08 road-mobile missile topped with a small nuclear warhead or use a suitcase nuclear bomb in downtown Seoul or at the gate of a U.S. military base.
CHALLENGED ON MISSILE DEFENSE
A senior House Republican is questioning Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent offer to China to trade U.S. missile defense upgrades for help in pressing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, expressed his concerns in a letter sent Monday to Mr. Kerry.
“Many of our Asian allies have watched with consternation the success with which Russia has obtained concessions from the Obama administration about U.S. missile defenses that NATO allies have agreed to host,” Mr. Rogers stated.
“No doubt, many Asian allies wondered when China would begin to seek similar concessions.”
Mr. Kerry told reporters April 13 in Beijing that the U.S. missile defenses are needed to defend against direct North Korean missile threats.
Asked if he discussed limiting U.S. missile defense deployments in talks with the Chinese, Mr. Kerry said: “Now obviously, if the threat disappears, i.e., North Korea denuclearizes, the same imperative does not exist at that point in time for us to have that kind of robust, forward-leaning posture of defense.”