SEOUL, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- South Korea's military is planning to significantly enhance operational capabilities to strike the North Korean leadership should Pyongyang be first to launch a nuclear attack.
The plan, part of Seoul's Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation strategy, or KMPR, is being pursued because of the need for a more independent strategy, said chief commander of the South Korean military's aviation operations command Maj. Gen. Jang Kwang-hyun.
"In the case of an emergency deployment, special operations forces in an aerial mission depends a great deal on U.S. assets," Jang said during a parliamentary audit. "In order to secure independent penetration capabilities, we are pursuing performance improvement by a deadline of the early 2020s."
New equipment planned for South Korea's air force includes MH-class helicopters, satellite communications equipment and machine guns for special operations use, according to Yonhap.
The timeline, however, is an issue, said ruling party lawmaker Kim Hak-yong, because deployment needs to take place sooner in response to North Korea's advancing nuclear weapons program.
Kim said Seoul should "cooperate with the U.S. military in order to station [MH-47] special operations helicopters to supplement our forces, [otherwise] special operations will be grounded in [South] Korea, never to reach Pyongyang."
The disclosure of Seoul's latest plans comes at a time when more U.S. North Korea experts are arguing in favor of pre-emptive strikes against the Kim Jong Un regime, if there is evidence North Korea was preparing an attack against the United States or its allies, according to Yonhap.
Former U.S. Forces Korea Commander Burwell Bell said the United States could not rule out a pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang, if the military is apprised of North Korea preparations of a nuclear attack, Voice of America reported Wednesday.