The term ‘Korean 3-axis system’ revived by the Yun Seok-yeol administration… Simple name change?

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[‘위협’→’도발’ 단어 변경에 이어‥’3축체계’ 용어도 부활]

Ahead of the South Korea-US summit this weekend, South Korean military authorities are observing that North Korea is almost ready to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile and an ICBM. Rep. Kim Byung-gi of the Democratic Party of Korea, who is an opposition secretary of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee who received the report from the National Intelligence Service, also said, “I can tell you that it is not strange if a missile is launched at some point and[North Korea]tests a nuclear weapon.”

With tensions on the Korean Peninsula rising again, the Ministry of National Defense, which changed the expression from ‘threat’ to ‘provocation’, in relation to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launch, has announced that the term has changed again. An official from the Ministry of National Defense said in a meeting with reporters today, “As of yesterday (18th), we decided to change the name of the three-axis system,” and explained that the term will be used in future defense white papers and official announcements.

Accordingly, instead of the previously used terms of ‘strategic strike system’ and ‘nuclear/weapon of mass destruction (WMD) response system’, ‘Korean 3-axis system’, that is, ‘Kill Chain’, ‘Korean missile defense system ( KAMD)’·’Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR)’ seems to be used.

First, let’s take a look at what the ‘Korean 3-axis system’ is. Axis 1 ‘kill chain’ refers to “an attack system that detects threats such as North Korean missiles, mobile launchers, and control facilities in real time, identifies the target, makes a decision, and quickly strikes it with a strike tool that can effectively destroy it” .

The 2-axis ‘Korean-style missile defense system’ refers to the concept of “detecting and analyzing a missile launched by North Korea with an early warning radar or Aegis radar, and then performing a mission with an optimal interceptor battery.”

In addition, the three-axis ‘mass punitive and retaliation’ is called “retribution and retaliation capabilities targeting the North Korean war leadership and other commanders”. (The above quotation is from Kim Jong-min, “North Korea’s Great Reform of Defense Strategy in Prepare for Imminent Deployment of Nuclear Weapons,” 「STRATEGY 21」 No. 41, 2017, 220-221.)

The term 'Korean 3-axis system' revived by the Yun Seok-yeol administration... Simple name change?

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[‘남북관계·대북정책’ 변화 예고? “새 정부의 의지 표현”]

In summary, the three-axis system is a concept that refers to an overall response system that responds to North Korea’s nuclear and weapons of mass destruction threats, a term used in the past Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. The concept of a ‘three-axis system’ was completed after the sinking of the Cheonan, North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, and North Korea’s fifth nuclear test.

However, during the last Moon Jae-in administration, the term ‘three-axis system’ was virtually abolished, and instead it was indicated in the defense white paper as ‘strategic strike system’ and ‘nuclear and weapons of mass destruction response system’. An analysis has been raised that the intention is not to unnecessarily provoke the opponent in consideration of inter-Korean relations.

The rebirth of the term ‘three-axis system’ seems to have been influenced by the mention of related contents including ‘Securing the overwhelming Korean-style three-axis system capability’ among the national tasks announced by the Yun Seok-Yeol administration. Kim Yeol-su, head of the Security Strategy Office at the Korea Military Research Institute, a research institute specializing in defense and military fields, evaluated that the revival of the term ‘three-axis system’ was an expression of the new government’s clear will.

“We will not only complete the terminology of the three-axis system, but we will also advance to the completion of the weapon system, so I think that it strongly reflects our will to protect our people from the North Korean nuclear and missile threats. In the process of promoting the policy, the restoration of terms is done, so it cannot be said that there is no (impact on North Korea policy, etc.) at all.”

Some say that this change of terminology is a ‘return to the past’. In this regard, an official from the Ministry of National Defense explained, “It can be said that the related concept becomes clearer.”

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