The United States and the Republic of Korea have drastically altered their military plans towards North Korea by shifting their central focus from preparation of a large-scale direct confrontation to swift localised subversive actions, reported the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on October 5, 2015. According to the newspaper, while previously the United States and the Republic of Korea (RK) were considering a full-scale ground war, the “sudden provocations from the North, which have been taking place recently” prompted a new Plan 5015 that focuses on deployment of special forces whose aim is to conduct surgical strikes to destroy specific targets.
Such localised blitz operations could, for instance, serve as a means of causing irreparable devastation to Pyongyang, or of taking the leader of the DPRK Kim Jong-un captive, or accomplishing preventive destruction of the North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, as well as missiles. The “preventive” part is definitive as the weapons of this type should be destroyed before and not after they have been deployed.
This task was assigned to the emerging special units capable to attack the most important strategic sites of the North without properly initiating or declaring a full-scale war. The newspaper stated that it would allow reducing the number of potential casualties and lowering the cost of military operations. It was also noted that such a re-orientation of the Operation Plan reflected the policy of the US President Barack Obama who adopted a strategy of military reform that sets out reduction of the personnel and creation of highly mobile and well-equipped special forces.
Even though an attempt was made to tie the announcement of the Plan to the recent incident, such as the escalation that we saw in August described here (), the Operation Plan for joint response in case of the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula had been developed and approved in June 2015.
The newspaper sources also claimed that Washington and Seoul started paying special attention to preparations for actions in case of domestic destabilisation in the DPRK. They also started actively working on the so-called 5029 Operation Plan, which foresees swift military operations on the territory of the DPRK without UN Security Council sanctions in case there is a threat that nuclear weapons or nuclear materials could be leaked abroad following the destabilisation of the situation in the country.
A similar topic was raised in the latest report of an American corporation RAND that suggested that the collapse of the regime in North Korea would require additional 150 thousand of US soldiers on the ground on the Korean Peninsula. The purpose of sending additional troops is to destroy the North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction. In this regard, it is noted that there is a need to increase the ground forces of the US Army, which should amount to 545 thousand people.
According to the report, in case of the collapse of the North Korean State as a result of war or economic crash, the South Korean army would take control of the artillery bases (the North Korean artillery is a real threat to the South; and in case of shelling of Seoul, advance evacuation of the citizens would be required) and would manage the internal situation in the DPRK; the American troops would oversee the disposal of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.
The emergence of the new Operation Plan is rather an interesting sign. Firstly, it was openly admitted that the US and South Korean forces would engage in sabotage at the nuclear sites. If North Korea announced a similar tactic, the Western media would already be filled with accusations that the DPRK was engaged in the international terrorism. In this case no one was alarmed by the creation of new raiding units acting under the preemptive strike strategy.
Certainly, preemptive strike is a good strategy. Strike first and do not give your opponent a chance to do it to you. In a number of countries, including the United States, such an approach has practically become a credo of enforcement agencies, sanctioning fatal shooting in the event of suspicious actions. The problem is that on an individual as well as national level, such course of actions should be supported by rock-hard evidence that the target had really intended something bad. Otherwise it will have the same result as many American police stories, when it turned out later that the suspicious actions were misinterpreted, but a victim had already taken the bullet. Or, as it was with the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the war began as a preemptive strike against the regime that was just about to deploy them, but at the end the weapons were never found. It is no coincidence that the plan to send these raiders had no sanction from the UN Security Council.
The second aspect is that by developing the subversive activities, the United States somewhat shifted away from the previous plans aimed at rocking the boat and overthrowing the regime as a result of an internal explosion: here it is worth recalling many failed attempts to demonstrate the existence in the DPRK of “Christian resistance” which similarly to the Free Syrian Army may have required military support. Emphasis on the subversives is a veiled acknowledgment that it is not that easy to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong-un, and that the hope that watching a ‘dull comedy’ with the scene of his assassination will cause a revolution, was not justified.
The third aspect is related to the North Korean response, which is often called paranoid. They say that the world is ready for a dialogue with North Korea and it is not clear why they refuse to take a hand stretched out to them and keep suspecting the free world of God knows what.
Plan 5015 is the case that proved one of such “suspicions” quite justified.
Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D, Chief Research Fellow of the Center for Korean Studies, Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.