A North Korean pilot who defected to the South in a Soviet-built jet said Tuesday that his government believes war with South Korea is inevitable and has a plan to invade and occupy the country.
"Kim Jong Il is diverting all resources to war preparation," Capt. Lee Chul Soo told a news conference. "He (Kim) has repeatedly told the military that they should not expect a peaceful reunification with the South and that the reunification must come from the gun barrel."Lee, 30, who flew his MiG-19 across the border Thursday in the first such defection in 13 years, did not indicate that Kim had any immediate plans to carry out the attack. But he said that the strategy would enable the North to occupy the South within seven days after an invasion.
Lee's remarks come as Washington and Seoul await North Korea's response on an offer of peace talks between the Koreas, with U.S. and Chinese mediators present.
In the past two months, North Korea has increased tensions along the border by repeatedly sending armed troops into the buffer zone in violation of the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War.
There was no immediate response from the North to Lee's comments, and no independent confirmation of such a war strategy. Before the pilot gave the news conference, South Korean officials interviewed him extensively about North Korean intelligence.
Dressed in a worn-out North Korean military uniform, Lee said the North's war scenario calls for a three-stage surprise attack on its southern capitalist rival, leading to the occupation of Seoul in a day.
"If Kim Jong Il issues an invasion order," he said, "the (North Korean) military is fully prepared (to execute) it."
In 1950, the North's military, led by Soviet tanks, occupied Seoul in three days, sparking the three-year Korean conflict. The two sides have never signed a formal treaty, and thus are still technically at war. Their border is the world's most heavily armed, with 2 million battle-ready troops on each side.
Lee said Tuesday that in the second and third stages of the North's military plan, troops would seek to occupy Taejon, a major central city, and the southern coastal city of Pusan.
He said North Korean authorities are telling the military that the South's increasing border provocations make a war with Seoul unavoidable.
In line with that thinking, he said, the North has pushed most of its 1.2 million-strong military closer to the demilitarized zone separating the two countries.
Despite worsening food shortages that have created near-famine conditions, North Korea is stockpiling food and fuel for the military, ensuring full preparations for a possible second Korean War, Lee said.
But he acknowledged that the fuel shortages have grounded many fighter planes.