Will the U.S. launch preemptive strikes against North Korea to eliminate the reclusive state’s nuclear and ballistic missiles? If so, when and how would it carry out such strikes? Yoji Koda, a former vice admiral of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), and Kunio Orita, a former lieutenant general of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), presented some possible scenarios.
Koda presented three possible timeframes for preemptive attacks by the U.S. against North Korea:
(1) From now through Jan. 8, one month before the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
(2) During the Foal Eagle U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises scheduled for March and April.
(3) This summer ahead of the U.S. midterm elections scheduled for November.
Orita projects that if U.S. President Donald Trump does decide to launch preemptive strikes, they would be on March 18, the day of the Russian presidential election, or later. He says, “The U.S. won’t be able to make rash moves until the Russian presidential election is over because doing so would fuel Russia’s anti-U.S. and anti-Trump sentiments.”
But the two experts agree that launching a “preventive war” to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear programs would be difficult even for the U.S. due to restrictions under international law. The only possibility would be a “preemptive attack” as an act of necessity aimed at eliminating the threat posed by North Korea. However, it is also true that from the perspective of other countries, there is some ambiguity in the distinction between a preventive war and a preemptive attack. Koda says, “We have to bear in mind that it would be the U.S. that would make a decision on ‘signs of an attack on the U.S.,’ which would be a prerequisite for a preemptive attack.” (Abridged)