SEOUL — An expert on Asian politics says he has “little doubt” that North Korea is preparing for a first-strike nuclear attack against America and its allies in light of recent activity within the Communist country.
“North Korea’s military exercises leave little doubt that Pyongyang plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, wrote in Foreign Policy. “North Korean defectors have claimed that the country’s leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force the United States and South Korea to recoil from their invasion.”
Lewis was referencing a test this month in which North Korea launched four missiles from the northwest corner of the nation. They traveled more than 600 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan.
North Korean then released a map that “showed all four missiles landing on an arc that stretched down to the [U.S.] Marine Corps Air Station near Iwakuni, Japan,” Lewis wrote.
Just as significant, North Korea previously tested its missiles from a central location but has been changing launch sites recently.
“These aren’t missile tests, they are military exercises,” Lewis wrote. “North Korea knows the missiles work. What the military units are doing now is practicing — practicing for a nuclear war.”
North Korea is conducting the missile tests at the same time that U.S. and South Korean forces are taking part in exercises in the region involving tens of thousands of personnel, as well as an aircraft carrier, bombers and F-35 aircraft out of Iwakuni – the same base North Korea could target.
The U.S.-South Korean drills are a “rehearsal” and part of a war plan known as OPLAN 5015, which “has been described as a pre-emptive strike against North Korea,” Lewis wrote.
All sides have plans to strike first, Lewis added.
“That means, in a crisis, the pressure will be to escalate,” he wrote. “Whatever restraint Kim [Jong un] or [Donald] Trump might show — and let’s be honest, our expectations here are not high — each will face enormous pressure to start the attack lest his opponent beat him to the punch.”
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