The South Korean military has launched a special unit to "decapitate" North Korea's leadership, including the country's powerful leader Kim Jong-un, in case a war breaks out in the Korean peninsula. The unit is made of about 1,000 elite soldiers and is expected to act as a strong deterrent against the reclusive Pyongyang regime.

News about the launch comes within days of North Korea launching a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). On Wednesday, 29 November, the North fired the long-range missile which flew about 950kms and touched an altitude of 4,475kms during the nearly hour-long flight before hitting the sea waters off the Japan coast.

Seoul's Korean Times quoted a defence source, who is aware of the latest development, as saying that the brigade's mission will be to eliminate key North Korean authorities if there is a full-fledged conflict in the region. The unit, whose name has not been formally released, will also be tasked with taking out North Korea's missile and nuclear facilities if necessary.

Though it is not the unit's sole mission to actually assassinate Kim, a third-generation dictator, it has been established as a strong show of force against Pyongyang. "We conducted a reorganisation ceremony for a special mission brigade this afternoon [1 December]," an unnamed army officer was quoted as telling reporters by the Yonhap news agency.

The South Korean unit will closely resemble the US Army Rangers, SEAL Team Six, Delta Force and Green Berets in their operations. It has been set up under the South Korean army's Special Warfare Command.

Local reports say the unit will quickly grow into one of the main elements of the South Korean forces in the future. Though the army had originally planned to launch such a force only in 2019, its schedule has been brought forward, thanks to the latest developments in the region.

In the past also, news about the formation of such decapitation units by the South Korean army surfaced though the exact details are still sketchy. North Korea, via its mouthpieces, had condemned the setting up of the units.

Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo REUTERS/KCNA