16:41 GMT27 July 2021
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    A North Korean diplomat who defected last year has told a US congressional hearing of the dire consequences of a military strike against Pyongyang. Thae Yong-ho urged Washington to use "soft power" to change Kim Jong-un's nuclear policy.

    A former deputy chief of mission at the North Korean embassy in London has warned the United States against a pre-emptive military strike, adding that South Korea would inevitably pay the consequences.

    Thae Yong-ho told a US Congress hearing on Wednesday, November 1, that Washington should use "soft power" to deter Kim Jong-un from aggression. Mr. Thae, the highest-level North Korean defector for decades, warned President Donald Trump of the "human sacrifice" South Koreans would pay if he acted hastily.

    In a video grab created on August 17, 2016 taken from footage recorded by AFPTV on November 3, 2014 deputy ambassador at the North Korean embassy in London, Thae Yong-ho, stands in front of an artwork during a photocall to view an exhibition of North Korean art at the North Korean embassy in west London
    © AFP 2021 / KATIE SCHUBAUBR / AFPTV
    In a video grab created on August 17, 2016 taken from footage recorded by AFPTV on November 3, 2014 deputy ambassador at the North Korean embassy in London, Thae Yong-ho, stands in front of an artwork during a photocall to view an exhibition of North Korean art at the North Korean embassy in west London

    'Fingers on the Button'

    "North Korean officers are trained to press their button without any further instructions from the general command if anything happens on their side," he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    ​He said North Korea would inevitably launch short-range missiles and fire heavy artillery over the border if it was attacked by the US.

    "We have to remember that tens of millions of South Korean population are living 70 to 80 kilometers away from this military demarcation line," said Mr. Thae.

    The Trump administration has said it is considering a pre-empty military strike as one of its options as it seeks to deter Kim Jong-un — dubbed "Rocket Man" by Trump — from creating a nuclear missile capable of striking the United States or its key ally in Asia, Japan.

    TV screens show a news program with an image of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
    © AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon
    TV screens show a news program with an image of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

    Tens of Thousands of Casualties

    A Congressional Research Service report published last week said conservative estimates anticipate North Korean artillery along the frontier could cause tens of thousands of casualties in South Korea in the first few hours of a conflict.

    ​The South Korean capital, and by far its largest city, Seoul, is barely 50 miles from the 49th parallel.

    Mr. Thae said Washington should enforce sanctions and distribute information inside North Korea in order to challenge the regime's propaganda and turn people against Kim.

    ​Pyongyang has accused Mr. Thae of embezzling government money and described him as "human scum."

    'Massive Exodus'

    Mr. Thae also suggested China could help by allowing an "exit route" for North Korean defectors and said a "massive exodus" would cause Kim's regime to collapse.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade on Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un.
    © AP Photo / Wong Maye-E
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade on Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un.

    Mr. Trump, who has threatened the "total destruction" of the North, is due to visit South Korea on a five-nation tour of Asia which starts on Friday, November 3.

    Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois and a decorated war heroine, wrote to Mr. Trump on Wednesday calling for him to provide the US public with declassified estimates of potential casualties, costs and outcomes from a war with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    "I fear the country is being deprived of an accurate assessment of what war against the DPRK would entail," she wrote.

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    Tags:
    civilians, missiles, casualties, nuclear, US Congress, Thae Yong-ho, Donald Trump Jr, Kim Jong-un, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Japan, US, South Korea
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