(From Asahi Shimbun)
By Yoshihiro Makino
Shelving assumptions of a full-scale ground war between the two Koreas, the United States and South Korea militaries have devised a plan that focuses on fighting guerrilla warfare waged by Pyongyang.
The new war plan–called Operations Plan 5015–reflects the view that the capabilities and weapons of North Korea’s military have deteriorated after years under an anemic economy.
Instead, Pyongyang is concentrating its resources on developing nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction as well as using special forces to assassinate South Korean officials and engage in limited destructive action.
Other changes in military planning also reflect new thinking about what might occur in North Korea. Some of the changes would deal with possible regime change, while other parts cover contingencies in which North Korea’s nuclear facilities are no longer under military control.
According to several sources knowledgeable about relations between the United States and South Korea, the 5015 plan deals with surprise military provocations by Pyongyang through the use of its special forces. Under old plans, military planners envisioned a repeat of the Korean War, in which massive numbers of ground troops poured into South Korea.
The new plan would also emphasize the use of special forces whose main duties would include assassinating or kidnapping top North Korean officials as well as destroying specific facilities.
One advantage of the plan would be to limit the area where warfare occurs and thereby reduce the number of casualties. The limited nature of the fighting would also restrain military spending.
On Sept. 23, the command of South Korea’s special forces explained to National Assembly members some of the new measures being considered under plan 5015. One was to organize special forces so they have the capabilities of attacking “strategically important facilities.” Such attacks, as well as the capture of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, would deal a fatal blow to the North Korean regime.
The United States and South Korea have other war plans with different objectives.
For example, Operations Plan 5026 envisions a limited bombing campaign as a precursor to a full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula. New versions of that plan appear to include the greater use of special forces for fighting in a narrower range of operations.
“The United States will likely focus on 5026 and Operations Plan 5029, which is designed to deal with the collapse of the North Korean regime,” one military source said.
Of greatest concern to the United States under the 5029 plan is preventing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and materials from being taken out of the nation and falling into the wrong hands. To prevent such an occurrence, the United States is even considering proceeding with the plan without prior U.N. approval.
Critics, however, question whether such a plan is realistic since the United States and South Korea do not appear to know exactly where North Korea’s nuclear weapons and control systems are located. Read more