South Korean military officers were baffled in a briefing last week by the sudden change in focus of the South Korea-U.S. joint annual drill which willl begin late this month. Due to military confidentiality, they were only informed of details of the exercise without full explanations of the revised conceptual changes of the drill.
Until last year, the drill envisioned a full-scale war with North Korea, but this year's exercises envisage a sudden change in the North and local provocations.
The previous drills focused on the urgent dispatch of large U.S. troop reinforcements and equipment -- 690,000 troops, about 160 warships including five aircraft carrier fleets, and about 2,500 aircraft -- to the Korean Peninsula, marching up to an area north of Pyongyang, and bringing down the regime.
But the upcoming drill will follow on a contingency plan that envisions six scenarios for sudden change in the North. Sources say the conceptual plan, numbered 5029, has become a concrete operational plan including troop mobilization and deployment. It covers civil war sparked by a failed transition of power to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's son Jong-un or a coup after Kim senior's death; instability caused by public riots; insurgents' seizure or smuggling of weapons of mass destruction; a mass exodus of North Koreans; a massive natural disaster; and kidnapping of South Korean citizens in the North.
The two militaries will also practice dealing with Chinese troops that could march into the North at the regime's request if a civil war should break out.
The South Korean and U.S. governments are mulling plans to bring such situations under control by forming a UN peacekeeping force consisting of South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia in efforts to quell opposition from China in case of a sudden change in the North.
Many members of the U.S. Army 20th Support Command stationed in Maryland will participate in the upcoming drill. They have been taking part in WMD-related drills since 2009. Some 150 of them participated in 2009, 350 in 2010.