War plan by U.S. and Seoul needs updating, upgrade

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War plan by U.S. and Seoul needs updating, upgrade

South Korea and the United States have agreed to modify a military conceptual plan to deal with sudden changes in North Korea to reflect last week’s political changes in the reclusive communist regime, a Seoul official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.

“South Korea and the United States assessed that uncertainty in the North has grown higher during the course of the power succession to Kim Jong-un [from his father Kim Jong-il],” said the official. “It is my understanding that Seoul and Washington have decided to specify scenarios of sudden changes in the North due to the leadership succession and reflect them in Conplan 5029.”

Last week, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, was given important party posts and named a four-star general and is now considered heir apparent if his father dies.

A Conplan is an operational plan in conceptual format, and Seoul and Washington first formulated Conplan 5029 in 1997. Since 2008, the plan has been updated to reflect changes on the Korean Peninsula.

“The decision to revise the conceptual plan will be formally agreed at the annual Security Consultative Meeting, scheduled to take place on Friday in Washington,” the official said.

The allied blueprint envisions six kinds of sudden changes in the North: the loss of control over weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear arms, missiles and biochemical weapons; a regime change in the North; a civil war, including a military coup; a hostage-taking of South Korean citizens in the North; an exodus of refugees; and natural disasters.

The two countries have been particularly concerned that any sudden altering in the North’s status quo would allow its weapons of mass destruction and production technologies to be leaked to a third country or terrorist group.

Another source also told the JoongAng Ilbo that Conplan 5029 will be upgraded to the level of an operational plan (or Oplan), which is more fleshed out and can be put into effect immediately.

“It will be readied so that it can be converted into an operational plan in time of emergency as soon as it gets signed by the heads of the joint chiefs of staffs of South Korea and the United States,” the official said.

By Kim Min-seok [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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