A defense intelligence analyst said Wednesday that North Korea will use nuclear weapons if a ground war starts with a U.S.-backed South Korea.
Deterring Kim Jong-un from using nuclear weapons is like attempting to "deter someone on death row with the threat of execution," Dave Ochmanek of Rand Corp. told an audience at Modern Day Marine 2017.
"Before it happens, he knows how this movie ends. It ends with him hanging from a rope," he said.
North Korea has a conventional military force of more than one million personnel -- five percent of its total population.
"Without question, they have massive amounts of artillery that can pulverize the greater metropolitan Seoul area with conventional warheads or chemical and biological weapons," Ochmanek said.
North Korea's nuclear arsenal is small compared to the "1,500 or so very large-yield, very accurate, very capable nuclear weapons that the United States has," he said.
But in a gaming analysis of a war involving a nuclear-armed North Korea, Kim Jong-un will do whatever he can to forestall a U.S.-South Korea counteroffensive marching toward his capital of Pyongyang, Ochmanek maintains.
"That means potentially using nuclear weapons against military targets and then threatening further nuclear attacks on cities of South Korea, Japan and potentially the United States," he said.
"What it leads us to as defense planners is the need for capabilities, not just to deter nuclear use with retaliation but to actually prevent nuclear use by destroying the weapons before they are used," he said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.