SEOUL — The United States and South Korea are about to play another war game, this time targeting the jugular vein.
In their first joint military exercise in five years, the U.S. and South Korea will perfect what military personnel here call a “kill chain” in which they target North Korea’s missile and nuclear facilities as well as those needed for supply, refueling and rearmament base.
Sources familiar with the U.S.-South Korea military alliance said the Olympics would culminate in a “decapitation” exercise in which they would hack into the heart of North Korea’s command structure and take out leader Kim Jong Un. While it’s just a game, he’s sure to take it as personal as he did in September 2017 when he ordered North Korea to conduct its sixth and most recent nuclear test after that year’s war games.
“If you get the head of the army (i.e. Kim Jong Un), you theoretically dig the snake’s head in.“
— Retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel David Maxwell
The United States will not formally or formally acknowledge that beheadings are on the agenda. Unofficially, however, that’s the name of the game, as someone familiar with the upcoming drills, as well as those from five years ago, explained to The Daily Beast.
Analysts have warned that the mere mention of beheadings would anger Kim, who has been intimidated by the concept of a “kill chain.” Fearing assassinations and fearing the resentment of his own poor, he reportedly stepped up security measures.
One of Kim Jong-un’s greatest fears is being publicly discovered in a drone attack similar to the one that killed the al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri At his home in Kabul on Sunday with Iran’s most feared military commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani. Realizing that he was likely to be the prime target of any “pre-emptive strike,” Kim made himself extremely difficult to detect by moving around at night in different vehicles, accompanied by dozens of bodyguards.
“Decapitation is the task of capturing or killing a high-value target, such as a hunt,” retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel David Maxwell told The Daily Beast during his five trips to South Korea for the annual Olympics. “If you get the head of the army (i.e. Kim Jong Un), you theoretically dig the snake’s head in it.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sub agreed over the weekend to hold drills, the first since Donald Trump called them off immediately after a June 2018 summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, during which he claimed They “fall down” in love. The exercise, which will begin this month, is called Ulchi Shield of Freedom, named after a seventh-century general who defeated Chinese invaders.
The U.S. and South Korea’s decision to join forces to strengthen ties by land, air and sea fulfills a promise by South Korea’s conservative President Yoon Sek-yeol to improve tensions. His predecessor, the left-leaning Moon Jae-in, reluctantly played only exercises on a computer, rather than a real live war game, as he sought reconciliation with North Korea, which was considered essential to the alliance. Now, the U.S. and South Korean militaries will move beyond their theoretical command post exercise, known as CPX, into Field Training Exercise (FTX), which “may involve substantial mobilization,” said Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Foundation. About 50,000 South Koreans and nearly 20,000 U.S. troops participated in the last such competition five years ago.
The “kill chain” is the first axis of South Korea’s “three-axis defense plan,” which focuses on “the intelligence and strike capabilities needed to detect and preempt North Korean missile launches,” Panda said. The second is “massive South Korean punishment and retaliation,” KMPR, which culminates in a beheading, with special forces strangling a target — Kim Jong-un — in a well-choreographed strike. The third is air and missile defense.
“The ‘kill chain’ concept came about about 10 years ago,” said Steve Tharpe, who worked here first as an officer and then as a civilian in U.S. Command. “If it is determined that North Korea is about to launch a major attack, this involves reconnaissance and pre-emptive strikes. The beheading of the leadership will be part of the KMPR.”
U.S. and South Korean troops will play a war game amid heightened tensions between the two North Koreas. Kim Jong-un pledged to “annihilate” South Korea in what he called a “serious warning to the conservative South Korean government and militants” in response to reports that South Korea was seriously considering a “pre-emptive strike” against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.
Kim mentioned Yoon’s name for the first time, warning that his government could be “annihilated” by North Korea’s “nuclear deterrent.” He said the United States was pushing the relationship “to the point of no return” by “holding large-scale joint exercises.”
Analysts are convinced that North Korea is ready for its seventh nuclear test — the first since 2017 — as the US and South Korea target Kim Jong-un and his closest aides in another beheading game.
“Decapitation is akin to an attack on North Korea’s nuclear force in that you have to locate the target, optimize that location and identify munitions that might be used against it,” said Bruce Bennett, a longtime South Korea analyst at the RAND Corporation. “The first mission could be done by drones or reconnaissance aircraft,” he said, but Seoul also decided to “create a special forces brigade to help with this mission.”
He said the brigade “may be sent to different locations in North Korea, possibly wearing North Korean uniforms, to try to find evidence of the presence of Kim Jong Un or other regime leaders, refine that information, and then directly attack the target.” The attack “could be carried out by drones.” Assist” or “Just shine a laser at the target, simulating the guidance of a laser-guided bomb.”
“I personally think a pre-emptive strike option on North Korea is a bad idea,” Steve Sape told The Daily Beast, “that would immediately lead to a total war — the restoration of a total war — the Korean War: Part II .”
Another Korean war, he predicted, “would dwarf the war in Ukraine, even without the use of nuclear weapons.” And “if nerve agents and nuclear weapons were used, we could see more deaths here than in the 1950-53 battle. More – The Korean War: Part One”
Tharpe believes that the North Korean leadership does not want another full-scale Korean war to know that “no matter how many casualties they inflict, it will lead to their demise.” The danger, he said, is that “a misjudgment of the situation leads to an unnecessary war.”
The Republic of Korea first introduced the term “kill chain” thanks to the South Korean military. “This is the South Korean concept of how to defend South Korea,” a spokesman for USFK and the United Nations Command told The Daily Beast. A South Korean military spokesman said that meant: “When North Korea launches missiles, we will attack North Korea’s missile systems.”
However, neither the U.S. nor South Korean spokespeople would talk about “beheading,” the last unofficial term for the “kill chain” — a term seen as raising tensions.
“I would caution against saying publicly that the ‘beheading’ of the North Korean leadership could be a prerequisite for any exercise,” said Evans Revere, a retired senior U.S. diplomat who has focused on North Korea for years. “Indicating that the elimination of Kim Jong-un and his inner circle would be the goal of the coalition would deeply anger the North Korean regime and demand the strongest possible response from Pyongyang.”
North Korea “understands the capabilities of the United States and the Republic of Korea and what they might try to do in the event of a conflict,” Revere said. “In this harsh reality, there is no need to rub Pyongyang’s face.”
The idea of rehearsing the assassination of Kim Jong Un by beheading his regime inevitably raises questions among those who want to get rid of the man but wonder if killing him will solve all problems. There will undoubtedly be a power struggle, possibly including his sister Kim Yo-jung, waiting for an opportunity, but so what?
Colonel Maxwell compared a possible beheading to the killing of Osama bin Laden. “Does it work in practice or only in theory,” he asked, suggesting that decapitation may not achieve the goal of destroying the enemy.
Choi Jin-wook, The chairman of the Seoul Center for Strategic and Cultural Studies sees beheading as the key to victory. “For a dictator like North Korea,” he told The Daily Beast, “Getting rid of the dictator to win the war is the best strategy. “