North Korean officers reportedly ‘trained to press their button’ and fire on South Korea if attacked

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A high-ranking North Korean defector told a congressional hearing Wednesday that a pre-emptive U.S. military strike on the country would trigger automatic retaliation, with the North unleashing artillery and short-range missile fire on South Korea.

The testimony from Thae Yong Ho, former deputy chief of mission at the North Korean Embassy in London, underscored the high risk in using military force against North Korea. The Trump administration has said this is among its options in stopping leader Kim Jong Un from perfecting a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the United States.

Thae, the highest-level North Korean defector in two decades, appeared to confirm what has long been suspected but rarely articulated by U.S. officials — that even a selective American strike could rain a potentially devastating North Korean military response on the South Korean capital and its environs, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the heavily militarized frontier.

Thae, who is making his first visit to Washington since his defection last year, said the U.S. and allied South Korea would win a war after a preventive military strike on the North, but there would be a “human sacrifice” inflicted on the South from the “tens of thousands” of artillery guns and short-range missiles the North has at the frontier.

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