Seoul announces assassination brigade following Kim Jong Un’s nuclear test

Defence Minister Song Young-moo told lawmakers in Seoul of the government’s plans for the so-called “decapitation unit” last week, one day after North Korea’s successful test of its sixth nuclear bomb.

Although the unit has not been assigned to literally decapitate North Korean leaders, “that is clearly the menacing message South Korea is trying to send”, says The New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun.

The brigade-sized unit of 2,000 to 4,000 soldiers could be tasked to kill Kim and other North Korean leaders, pre-empt a North Korean strike on the South, or fight in a war, Vox reports.

It is rare for a country to announce plans to assassinate a head of state, but according to Business Insider: “The South is trying to freak out its northern neighbour and get it to the negotiating table instead of further developing nuclear weapons.” 

It is a difficult balancing act, however - one that pits South Korea’s preference for diplomatic talks against its need to deter a potentially unstable northern neighbour with nuclear ambitions.

"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 New York Times.

Seoul reportedly plans to set up the brigade by the end of the year.

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