“North Korea lacks a clear distinction between the use of nuclear weapons against military targets and their use against civilian targets, or any plan for a gradual escalation from attacking military bases to striking cities,” the European Council on Foreign Relations said in a recent report.
The hit list names presidential offices in South Korea and the US, along with major cities in both countries such as Seoul and New York City, citing North Korean sources. Key military bases in US mainland, Asia-Pacific, South Korea, and Japan were also mentioned as potential targets.
North Korea has displayed “no preference” between strikes against military and civilian targets in its official statements and reports, it added. It stressed it is almost impossible to target military forces without creating civilian casualties in the process.
The ECFR said the list was based on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un‘s core military strategy of threatening to use nuclear weapons when a “preventive” attack is detected.
“Pyongyang’s official statements show that it is prepared to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike, that it would consider strikes against both military and civilian targets, and that it is focused on deterrence by punishment, but dreams of achieving deterrence by denial,” it said.
Through pictures released via its state-run media, North Korea has hinted it holds maps corresponding to the list, such as a picture that shows Kim with a map depicting cities and army bases in the US mainland, published in March 2013. Furthermore, a July 2016 picture of the North Korean strongman overseeing a ballistic test launch includes a map of the US military base in Busan.
A number of video-montages portrayed Guam as a target, before Pyongyang threatened to launch ballistic missiles to the US territory in the Pacific in August 2017, the report said.
The think tank pointed out that North Korea’s nuclear and missile program are founded on the regime’s “calculated assessment of the threats to its survival. In order to avoid a full-blown war, it added, the international society needs to comprehend how the rogue regime sees its nuclear weapons.
The report comes amid escalating signs of North Korean military provocations after nearly a 70-day hiatus in its nuclear and missile tests -- its longest in recent months.
The South Korean military said Tuesday it is keeping close tabs on the North for signs of its next provocation, in collaboration with the US.
Japan’s Kyodo News reported earlier in the day that Pyongyang is likely to launch another nuclear missile soon based on radio signals the Japanese government received. It added the signals could be from the North’s winter military training.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)