[VIEWPOINT]We must be ready for the Northern flightsBased on an agreement reached in the Security Consultative Meeting between South Korea and the United States last year, the two nations have prepared for a sudden collapse of the North Korean regime by agreeing to develop by the end of next year the so-called “Concept Plan 5029.”
This gives scant comfort and peace of mind to the Korean people.
We are living in an era of collective security and cooperative defense mechanisms. Shared preparedness for dealing with the possible breakout of emergencies on the Korean Peninsula, such as the fall of North Korea’s totalitarian system or the sudden demise of Kim Jung-il and so on, does benefit all the nations surrounding the peninsula and nations that have their national interests entwined with its fate.
The first target for this preparedness is the possible instability of the North Korean system which, of course, will be an unhappy development for North Korea and the Korean people as a whole.
Such instability could even provoke opposition to the Kim family dynasty in North Korea.
However, no one could say this possibility is far-fetched. We South Koreans are the very ones who require a contingency mechanism because it’s hard to monitor anything in the closed North Korean society.
For the safety and well-being of the Korean people as a whole, our government must be in full agreement with the U.S. initiative for further developing this “Concept Plan 5029” into, if possible, a higher cooperative mechanism, “Operational Plan 5029.”
Regrettably enough, last year the South Korean government was hesitant to agree to jointly develop the idea of “Concept Plan 5029,” not to mention the higher-level mechanism, “Operational Plan 5029.” To some relief, the concept plan was roughly agreed this year.
First conceived in 1999 by the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, the plan was based upon five different worst-case scenarios, including a coup, internal conflict or the capture by a rebel force of nuclear and biochemical weapons in the North.
The Roh Moo-hyun government has been unwilling to proceed with “Operational Plan 5029.” Last year, the National Security Council of South Korea interrupted the ongoing discussion between South Korea and the U.S. on “Concept Plan 5029,” with the council’s objections, effectively stopping the talks on the operational level.
The council reportedly feared causing unnecessary friction with the North, so the South Korean government accepted its recommendation to stop discussions for fear of touching off resistance from North Korea.
North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship and the rigidity of Kim Jong-il’s Stalinist system create unstable dilemmas that could bring about a sudden collapse. Therefore, the South Korean government must first think of its own people’s security, not of the North Korean leader’s discomfort with such combined countermeasures from South Korea and the United States.
Therefore, it is my strong belief that the two nations should go beyond the level of concepts or theoretical scenarios and instead go to the level of a combined action plan, including the mobilization of troops in the event of an emergency in North Korea.
Japan and China have reportedly prepared their own measures to deal with North Korean refugees in case of disorder.
In this context, our government, as a major ally of the United States, should hurry up and work with the U.S. to prepare for North Korean emergency situations. It should conclude “Operational Plan 5029” immediately after completing “Concept Plan 5029” as soon as possible.
As the nation most exposed to the repercussions of possible disasters on the peninsula, our nation has all the more reason to quickly start initiatives for strong preparedness.
It is quite uncertain whether North Korea would really give up its nuclear ambitions in return for a package of economic and energy assistance, and a security pledge from the United States.
The U.S. incentive package also includes a pledge to work with North Korea toward finding a breakthrough for lifting the financial restrictions imposed last year on North Korean accounts in the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia.
I do not think North Korea will honestly respond to this last diplomatic package. This could be the last diplomatic effort of the nations involved in the six-party talks after the nuclear test.
The offer from the United States clarified what kind of aid it could receive should North Korea dismantle and eliminate its nuclear weapons and related technologies.
A conditional response from North Korea will only provide it additional time to further develop advanced nuclear weapons and delivery technology through its missiles.
We should be fully prepared for emergencies in North Korea by utilizing collective security and cooperative defense mechanisms such as “Concept Plan 5029,” and swiftly raising it up to the higher level of “Operational Plan 5029.”
*The writer is a visiting professor at the Department of Diplomacy, National Chengchi University, China.
by Park Tae-woo