Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Wednesday that the military was ready to take a "pre-emptive strike" against the North if it showed any sign of using nuclear weapons in the future.
The statement came ahead of a possible third nuclear test by North Korea, and excluded getting prior approval from the United States.
"If there is a clear intent that North Korea is about to use a nuclear weapon, we will eliminate it first even at the risk of a war," said Gen. Jung Seung-jo at a National Assembly plenary session.
"A pre-emptive attack against the North trying to use nuclear weapons does not require consultation with the United States and it is the right of self-defense," he said.
Nevertheless, a close discussion including a pre-emptive strike option between Korea and the United States means sharing comprehensive strategies aimed at containing North Korea, he said.
Jung said the military is not mulling targeting the testing location in Punggye-ri; but said he will make decisions according to how circumstances develop.
North Korea has ramped up its threat of a nuclear test in response to expanded U.N. sanctions over its Dec. 12 rocket launch, banned under U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
Amid speculations that North Korea may test a hydrogen bomb, the chairman said that it was likely to detonate a "boosted fission weapon," a smaller and more sophisticated nuclear bomb.
"Experts say the North's nuclear weapons development is at a level before a complete hydrogen bomb," Jung said.
"We do not exclude the possibility of the North testing a boosted weapon."
North Korea has conducted nuclear tests twice in 2006 and 2009 and both experiments were plutonium-based.
As to when the test will be carried out, he predicted it would occur this month.