North Korea’s successful test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week is a game-changer. The United States and its allies can no longer allow this situation to fester.
The North Korean nuclear threat must be nullified, one way or another, a message President Trump is no doubt conveying at the Group of 20 summit this week, including in the one-on-one meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the annual gathering.
The American military is well equipped to destroy Kim Jong-un’s nuclear capability. However, North Korea is said to have tens of thousands of artillery tubes aimed at Seoul, as well as American troops near the DMZ. And therein lies the quandary: how to remove the new threat to North America and not decimate our South Korean ally and American troops in the process.
Here is where special operations aviation and ground forces will have a big role to play.
We have all heard via intentional leaks that SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force commandos are training in-country to decapitate the North Korean government or, to be blunt, assassinate Mr. Kim. I am sure this is definitely the case. It has been reported that the young North Korean dictator lives in daily fear of such an attack, the same kind of operation that killed Osama bin Laden. Mr. Kim reportedly takes great care to conceal his movements and confuse any hit team over his whereabouts.
Any attempt to kill Kim Jong-un will require aviation assets to insert and extract the force that carries out the job. This could mean a helicopter or a V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Another option could be to let teams parachute in and walk to the target. In fact, teams could already be in place to conduct such a mission.
However, there are other ways special operations aviation could be useful.
All of those artillery tubes burrowed into the mountainside north of the DMZ targeting Seoul need to be destroyed or at least neutralized. The successful deployment of the large conventional weapon, or MOAB, in Afghanistan in April was a trial run to do just that. On one hand, it showed America’s capability to close down caves in a large area with one fell swoop. On the other hand, it tested a capability that we will very much need if war breaks out.
This is a dangerous mission and would likely need to be conducted by a special forces’ fixed-wing craft like the MC-130 Talon, which trains for this day in and day out. The pilots would have to fly in low and undetected, literally pushing the bomb out the back of the plane. I’m sure there are other classified munitions in the Pentagon’s arsenal that could be used as well. We’ve known about the cave requirement for decades, so U.S. planners have had lots of time to come up with good solutions.
Special operations forces have been integral to every conflict the U.S. has fought since Vietnam. A war on the Korean Peninsula would be no different. The missions are dangerous, take years to train for and sometimes are carried out with the full knowledge that the soldiers and airmen involved will not make it home.
True, these quiet professionals have been used and overused in the past two decades to the point of exhaustion. American governments have grown spoiled and used special operations not as a unique capability, but as the go-to command to get the job done while our conventional forces languish.
But time is not a luxury in dealing with the North Korean crisis. Fortunately, for all of us, when special forces are once again called on to do difficult work, their only response will be, “Yes, sir!”
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.
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