April 13, 2017 09:26
Fears are growing of U.S. President Donald Trump launching a temperamental preemptive strike on North Korea without consulting Seoul after his abrupt airstrikes on Syria last week.
Repeated statements by the government and the military here that Washington would have to discuss any action with Seoul beforehand have not been able to quell the fears given Trump's inexperience in international relations.
Asked if Seoul would be notified of a preemptive strike beforehand, Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said Tuesday, "Such a strike would be launched based on close cooperation... between Seoul and Washington."
Any strike would have to involve the U.S. Forces Korea, and South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command is under a chain of command consisting of the presidents, defense ministers and chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the two countries. None of them could be bypassed before any strike would be launched.
Moreover, Trump was able to launch the airstrike on Syria without worrying about escalating conflicts or loss of American or allied lives, but North Korea is a different proposition.
The North is capable of hitting USFK bases near Seoul with long-range artillery and in any part of South Korea with some 1,000 Scud and Rodong missiles.
The USFK alone cannot entirely defend itself against counterattacks but would need the assistance of South Korean artillery and missile batteries.
Even if fighter jets from the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now floating in waters off the Korean Peninsula or strategic bombers from the U.S. military base on Guam launch a strike on the North, the South Korean military would have to be told about incursions into its airspace.
Any moves to evacuate more than 200,000 U.S. military families and American citizens in South Korea would be a clear sign that a preemptive strike against the North is imminent.
As for social media rumors that the U.S. could fire several long-range missiles from a long way away, South Korean and U.S. military officers are saying that this is unthinkable without provoking a full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula.
Even President Trump is not reckless enough to do that, pundits say.
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