February 05, 2010 07:39
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea are proposing to Seoul a joint military exercise in preparation for the collapse of the North Korean regime.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries have almost completed an operational plan for what is delicately called a "sudden change" in the North, but they have yet to carry out a joint exercise based on the plan.
The Defense Ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff are reviewing the plan cautiously for fear of further angering the North, which is already on edge amid international sanctions and a currency reform gone disastrously wrong.
A government source on Thursday said since late last year, one U.S. military leader after another has proposed to the Defense Ministry and the JCS officially or unofficially that a joint military exercise be staged in preparation for the "sudden change."
U.S. JCS Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen reportedly made the proposal to his South Korean counterpart Gen. Lee Sang-eui at the bilateral Military Committee Meeting in Seoul in October last year. USFK Commander Gen. Walter Sharp repeated the proposal to senior South Korean military officers in a recent meeting, according to a source.
The ministry and the JCS urged caution but agreed there is a need for such an exercise. Military authorities are considering two options. The first envisages staging the drill as inconspicuously as possible as part of one of the existing annual joint exercises. The other is a drill ostensibly for humanitarian relief in case of a massive natural disaster in a hypothetical neighboring state.
The joint contingency plan, dubbed OPLAN 5029, envisages six scenarios, including civil war caused by a transition of power or a coup after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death; theft and sale abroad of so-called weapons of mass destruction by an insurgent army; mass defection; massive natural disaster; and the kidnapping of South Korean citizens in the North. However, this has never been officially confirmed.
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