S. Korea plans ‘de­cap­i­ta­tion unit’ in at­tempt to scare North’s lead­ers

Houston Chronicle - - WORLD -

SEOUL, South Korea — The last time South Korea is known to have plot­ted to as­sas­si­nate the North Korean lead­er­ship, noth­ing went as planned.

In the late 1960s, af­ter North Korean com­man­dos tried to ran­sack the pres­i­den­tial palace in Seoul, South Korea se­cretly trained mis­fits plucked from prison or off the streets to sneak into North Korea and slit the throat of its leader, Kim Il Sung. When the mis­sion was aborted, the men mu­tinied.

Now, as Kim’s grand­son, Kim Jong Un, ac­cel­er­ates his nu­clear pro­gram, South Korea is again tar­get­ing the North’s lead­er­ship. A day af­ter North Korea con­ducted its sixth — and by far most pow­er­ful — nu­clear test this month, the South Korean de­fense min­is­ter, Song Young-moo, told law­mak­ers in Seoul that a spe­cial forces brigade he de­scribed as a “de­cap­i­ta­tion unit” would be es­tab­lished by the end of the year.

The unit, of­fi­cially known as the Spar­tan 3000, has not been as­signed to lit­er­ally de­cap­i­tate North Korean lead­ers. But that is clearly the men­ac­ing mes­sage South Korea is try­ing to send.

Song said the unit could con­duct cross-bor­der raids with re­tooled he­li­copters and trans­port planes that could pen­e­trate North Korea at night.

Rarely does a govern­ment an­nounce a strat­egy to as­sas­si­nate a head of state, but South Korea wants to keep the North on edge and ner­vous about the con­se­quences of fur­ther de­vel­op­ing its nu­clear arse­nal and pres­sure Py­ongyand into ac­cept­ing Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s of­fer of talks.

“The best de­ter­rence we can have, next to hav­ing our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” said Shin Won-sik, a re­tired three-star gen­eral.

South Korea has now in­tro­duced three arms­buildup pro­grams — Kill Chain; the Korea Air and Mis­sile De­fense pro­gram; and the Korea Mas­sive Pun­ish­ment and Re­tal­i­a­tion ini­tia­tive, which in­cludes the de­cap­i­ta­tion unit.

As word of South Korea’s new as­sas­si­na­tion plans has spread, Kim has used his deputies’ cars as de­coys to move from place to place, South Korean in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials told law­mak­ers in June.

Mean­while, North Korea ap­pears to be step­ping up ef­forts to se­cure bit­coin and other cryp­tocur­ren­cies, which could be used to avoid trade re­stric­tions in­clud­ing new sanc­tions ap­proved by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Mon­day.

Hack­ers from Kim Jong Un’s regime are in­creas­ing their at­tacks on cryp­tocur­rency ex­changes in South Korea and re­lated sites, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from se­cu­rity re­searcher FireEye Inc. They also breached an English-lan­guage bit­coin news web­site and col­lected bit­coin ran­som pay­ments from global vic­tims of the mal­ware Wan­naCry, ac­cord­ing to the re­searcher.

Kim’s ap­par­ent in­ter­est in cryp­tocur­ren­cies comes amid ris­ing prices and pop­u­lar­ity. With tight­en­ing sanc­tions and us­age of cryp­tocur­ren­cies broad­en­ing, se­cu­rity ex­perts say North Korea’s em­brace of dig­i­tal cash will only in­crease.

Trea­sury As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for Ter­ror­ist Fi­nanc­ing Mar­shall Billingslea dis­played satel­lite photos to demon­strate North Korea’s de­cep­tive ship­ping prac­tices. He fo­cused in par­tic­u­lar on how it masks ex­ports of coal that were banned in Au­gust af­ter the North tested two in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

In one ex­am­ple, a North Korean ship reg­is­tered in St. Kitts and Ne­vis was said to have sailed from China to North Korea, turn­ing off its transpon­der to con­ceal its lo­ca­tion as it loaded coal. The ship then docked in Vladi­vos­tok, Rus­sia, be­fore fi­nally go­ing to China to pre­sum­ably un­load its cargo.

China ac­counts for 90 per­cent of North Korea’s ex­ter­nal trade.

South Korea De­fense Min­istry via New York Times

In ad­di­tion to wield­ing its own mis­sile arse­nal, the South Korean mil­i­tary is try­ing to res­ur­rect “de­cap­i­ta­tion units” to de­ter ag­gres­sion by the North.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.