The reason South Korea wants a 'decapitation squad' might surprise you

South Korea’s defense minister is publicly boasting that it will create a new “decapitation unit” called the Spartan 3000 with the express intent of taking out North Korean leadership, The New York Times reports.

The brigade-sized unit of between 2,000 and 4,000 soldiers will be established by year’s end, The Times reported the defense minister, Song Young-moo, as saying, adding that the military was already “retooling” helicopters and transporting planes to be able to penetrate North Korean airspace at night.

It’s out of the ordinary for a senior government leader to publicly say they are working on a plan to assassinate a foreign head of state. But there’s an interesting reason behind it: The South is trying to freak out its northern neighbor and get it to the negotiating table instead of further developing nuclear weapons.

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” retired South Korean Lt. Gen. Shin Won-sik told The Times.

Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. The claim has not yet been independently confirmed, but some experts think North Korea may have detonated such a device or is very close to achieving it, according to Reuters.

Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

While a “decapitation unit” — if created — may give Kim pause, it’s unlikely that such a force would be able to carry out cross-border raids without a deadly retaliation from Pyongyang. Part of the reason many of the US’s military options against North Korea range from bad to worse is that Seoul, a metro area with more than 25 million people, is within artillery range of the North.

Most experts think that a preemptive strike against North Korea would be perceived as an attempt at regime change and that its military leadership would most likely lash out at South Korea with artillery and chemical weapons.

“It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we’ve seen since 1953,” US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in June of potential hostilities. “It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth.”

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