SEOUL • This year, South Korea will launch a special unit tasked with incapacitating North Korea's wartime leadership, two years ahead of schedule, the South's defence chief said yesterday.
"We are planning to set up a special brigade with the goal of removing or (at least) paralysing North Korea's wartime command structure," Defence Minister Han Min Koo said during a New Year policy briefing to the acting President.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn took over the executive powers of scandal-hit President Park Geun Hye after she was impeached by parliament last month.
South Korea has been intensifying its rhetoric against the leadership of North Korea since Pyongyang claimed a successful test of a nuclear warhead on Sept 9 last year.
Not long after the test, Mr Han surprised many when he revealed in parliament that South Korea has a plan to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reported CNN.
South Korea has a general idea and plan to use precision missile capabilities to target the enemy's facilities in major areas, as well as eliminating the enemy's leadership.
DEFENCE MINISTER HAN MIN KOO
When asked if there was a special forces unit already assembled that could eliminate Mr Kim, Mr Han replied: "Yes, we do have such a plan.
"South Korea has a general idea and plan to use precision missile capabilities to target the enemy's facilities in major areas, as well as eliminating the enemy's leadership."
In a related move, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff launched the Countering Nuclear and WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Centre on Jan 1 to better handle North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats.
Yonhap news agency said the move would enable the South to draw up military operations and strategic countermeasures in a more detailed and organised manner.
Mr Han also said yesterday that South Korea is committed to deploying an advanced United States missile defence system this year, despite opposition from Beijing.
"Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) deployment is part of our efforts to bolster defence against threats from North Korea," said Mr Han.
"This is not a subject for political considerations."
Seoul and Washington last year agreed to deploy the Thaad system in the South after a string of North Korean nuclear and missile tests - prompting strong objections from China, reported Agence France- Presse.
A group of opposition lawmakers flew to China yesterday to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other top officials to discuss diplomatic tension over the planned Thaad deployment.
"They are going to convey our belief to China that the Thaad issue should be left in the hands of the next president," the party's parliamentary floor leader Woo Sang Ho said.
Originally set for December this year, the country's presidential election may be brought forward if Ms Park's impeachment is upheld by the Constitutional Court, which has up to six months to decide.
The Democratic Party's presidential hopeful Moon Jae In is currently the front runner in the race.
Beijing argues that Thaad will hurt its security interests and increase the risk of military conflict in the region, and has imposed what has been seen in South Korea as a string of sanctions in retaliation for the development.