President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea told American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a dinner this weekend that Seoul is concerned about the possibility of a “Hamas-style surprise attack” from North Korea, requesting unity in South Korean and American military defenses to protect his civilians from such a siege.
The conservative Yoon government, which took office last year, has dedicated much of its diplomatic effort to eliciting increased defensive support from President Joe Biden, whose administration was largely apathetic towards Korean peninsula policy before Yoon publicly threatened to pursue nuclear weapons development. Following Yoon’s declaration that South Korea could one day “possess its own nukes” to deter the communist North from attacking, Biden agreed to send American nuclear submarines to South Korea and give Seoul more information and a greater say in American military operations in the country. U.S. troops have been in South Korea since the beginning of the Korean War in 1950 and lead the U.N. Command, a coalition force in place to implement the 1953 armistice agreement that ended active hostilities. As neither side has surrendered or signed a peace treaty, the Korean War remains technically active.
South Korean officials have indicated throughout the past month that they believe that the government of communist dictator Kim Jong-un maintains a relationship with Hamas, a Sunni jihadist terrorist organization whose objectives are the destruction of the nation of Israel and the genocide of Jewish people. Officials have also said that South Korea is aware of and preparing for the threat of North Korean troops using Hamas-style tactics, such as the indiscriminate mass killing of civilians in residential areas and grotesque acts of torture, rape, and murder against children as young as infants.
Hamas committed an unprecedented string of atrocities against Israeli men, women, and children on October 7, infiltrating Israel and killing about 1,200 people. Many of the victims were babies, whom Israeli authorities found incinerated, decapitated, or otherwise exhibiting signs of extreme torture. the attacks featured many acts of mutilation, gang rape, and resulted in the capture of about 250 hostages. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are currently engaged in an operation in Gaza, the Hamas stronghold, to neutralize the threat of future attacks.
“Hamas is believed to be directly or indirectly linked to North Korea in various areas, such as the weapons trade, tactical guidance, and training,” an unnamed official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told UPI in October. “There is a possibility that North Korea could use Hamas’ attack methods for a surprise invasion of South Korea.”
Yoon reportedly repeated similar concerns in a meeting on Sunday with Austin, the secretary of defense, and American Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.
“Even if North Korea miscalculates and commits any provocation, including a Hamas-style surprise attack, we will maintain a South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture that can immediately and resolutely punish it,” Yoon said at the event, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily.
Yoon also asserted that North Korea was “directly or indirectly” tied to both the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and Hamas, a point that the president is expected to continue stressing this week as he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in San Francisco, California.
Speaking to the Associated Press on Tuesday, Yoon emphasized that Russia and North Korea working together “not only poses a serious threat to the security of the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and Europe but also undermines the universal rules-based international order.”
“If North Korea succeeds in launching the military reconnaissance satellite, it would signify that North Korea’s ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capabilities have been taken to a higher level,” he noted, referring to South Korean predictions that North Korea will soon launch a new spy satellite, a potential indication of more cooperation with Russia.
The Russian government, which has welcomed Hamas terrorists to Moscow and supported their interests at the United Nations, has elevated its ties to North Korea in the past year, as well. Kim Jong-un made his first trip out of the country since the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, and his longest known international voyage, to Russia in September. In Pyongyang, he welcomed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to attend a massive parade in the capital and take a tour of a missile and weapon exhibition that observers have speculated may have served as an array of potential weapons to purchase for use in Ukraine.
Yoon’s concern that North Korea, with the aid of Russia and inspired by Hamas, arose as the military leaders of the countries comprising the U.N. Command met in Seoul to discuss their mission. The U.N. Command representatives published a joint statement on Tuesday condemning North Korea’s incessant nuclear threats and vowing unity “upon any renewal of hostilities or armed attack on the Korean Peninsula challenging the principles of the U.N. and the security of the Republic of Korea [South Korea].”
North Korea on Monday called once again for the complete dissolution of the U.N. Command.