While there are concerns that taking out North Korea’s leader might not be enough, a White House review revealed earlier this year that the U.S. strategy on North Korea does include the possibility of regime change.
Kim has become a major problem regionally and for the U.S. as well. Pyongyang has repeatedly tested missiles potentially capable of delivering nuclear warheads and Kim’s threats against South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. have grown increasingly bellicose. Last week, North Korea returned American college student Otto Warmbier after holding him for 17 months on a dubious charge. Doctors say Warmbier underwent devastating brain injuries while in North Korean custody and is now in an unresponsive state. Three other U.S. citizens remain locked up in the reclusive nation’s infamous gulags.
But while taking out Kim may be a possibility, experts say it would be much more complicated that the 2011 raid in Pakistan in which CIA operatives and SEALs took out Bin Laden.
“A U.S. special operations strike against Kim Jong Un in today’s conditions would make the bin Laden raid look easy,” said Mark Sauter, a former U.S. Army and special forces officer who operated in the Korean demilitarized zone during the Cold War and now blogs about the decades-long effort to defend South Korea at www.dmzwar.com.
The daring, night-time raid on the Abbottabad compound went off nearly flawlessly. But U.S. forces would face much more deadly opposition in an assault on the North Korean capital.
“Pyongyang is surrounded by antiaircraft weapons, and while the corpulent Kim presents a large and sluggish target, he’s kept on the move, always surrounded by fanatical guards and often near or in complex underground compounds,” Sauter said.
Despite those potential challenges, Sauter suggests the North Korean leader “does need to worry about strikes by precision-guided missiles and bunker-buster bombs in the early stages of a preemptive allied attack, and if a conflict continues, everything from (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to special operators will be on his tracks.”