Kim Jong Un Will Strike South Korea the Moment the U.S. Bombs North Korea, Defector Says

Kim Jong Un would immediately launch a strike against South Korea in the event of a military action against his country from the United States, a high-ranking North Korean defector told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday. 

“North Korean officers are trained to press the button without any further instructions from the general command if something happens on their side," said Thae Yong Ho, the former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, as he spoke before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Thae defected to South Korea in 2016. 

"If there is any sound of fire or bomb or strike from Americans, the military artilleries and short-range missiles will fire against South Korea," Thae added. 

The U.S. and North Korea have had a contentious relationship for over half a decade, but tensions have risen significantly in recent months as Pyongyang has ramped up its long-range missile tests in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon that could reach the mainland U.S.

North Korea's refusal to give in to international pressure to cease its nuclear program has led to an ongoing war of words between President Donald Trump and Kim. During his first address to the U.N. in September, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if it forced the U.S. to defend itself or its allies. Kim responded to these remarks by referring to Trump as a "mentally deranged dotard." 

Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test in early September and has since threatened to conduct a seventh over the Pacific Ocean, which would pose a major risk to shipping and aircraft. 

Trump's top advisers have said the administration favors a diplomatic resolution to the ongoing hostilities with Pyongyang, but the president has often signified a preference for a military approach. His belligerent stance toward North Korea has led some Democrats to push for legislation that would prevent Trump from launching a strike without congressional approval.

The president is set to take his first trip to Asia since taking office in November and the White House has said North Korea will be at the top of his agenda. In particular, it seems Trump will focus on pressuring China—Pyongyang's top trading partner—to urge the North Korean regime to back away from its nuclear program.