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"New Pentagon war plan—Plan 5030—that gives American commanders authority to take highly provocative actions against North Korea"
Within the past two months, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ordered U.S. military commanders to devise a new war plan for a possible conflict with North Korea. Elements of the draft, known as Operations Plan 5030, are so aggressive that they could provoke a war, some senior Bush administration officials tell U.S. News.
Adm. Thomas Fargo, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, and senior Pentagon planners are developing the highly classified plan. The administration insiders, who are critical of the plan, say it blurs the line between war and peace. The plan would give commanders in the region authority to conduct maneuvers--before a war has started--to drain North Korea's limited resources, strain its military, and perhaps sow enough confusion that North Korean generals might turn against the country's leader, Kim Jong Il. "Some of the things [Fargo] is being asked to do," says a senior U.S. official, "are, shall we say, provocative."
There are several war plans for Korea--Plans 5026 and 5027, as well as 5030--that outline the different phases of war and the specific provisions for movements of large numbers of troops, aircraft carriers, and other war-fighting requirements. U.S. News has learned details of the prewar phase of the newest version of Plan 5030. Some officials believe the draft plan amounts to a strategy to topple Kim's regime by destabilizing its military forces. The reason: It is being pushed by many of the same administration hard-liners who advocated regime change in Iraq. The Pentagon only recently began offering details of the plan to top officials at the White House, the State Department, and other agencies. It has not yet been approved. A Pentagon spokesman declined comment.
One scenario in the draft involves flying RC-135 surveillance flights even closer to North Korean airspace, forcing Pyongyang to scramble aircraft and burn scarce jet fuel. Another option: U.S. commanders might stage a weeks-long surprise military exercise, designed to force North Koreans to head for bunkers and deplete valuable stores of food, water, and other resources. The current draft of 5030 also calls for the Pentagon to pursue a range of tactical operations that are not traditionally included in war plans, such as disrupting financial networks and sowing disinformation.
Against the wall. Some administration officials and military experts say they consider these tactics dangerously provocative. What would happen, they ask, if North Korea shot down an RC-135 or lobbed artillery at South Korea? "What the Pentagon is trying to do is balance the risk between ceding the initiative to the enemy or taking steps to influence it," says Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "But does war become more likely?"
America's allies in the region--South Korea and Japan--think so. They, along with China, worry that if the Bush administration puts too much pressure on North Korea, Pyongyang could strike back in unpredictable ways. "Once we push them too hard against the wall," says a Japanese official, "we do not know what kind of reaction Kim Jong Il will have."
It is the Pentagon's job to be ready for war--and critics of this war plan admit as much. The Pentagon work on 5030 was triggered by Rumsfeld's desire to reinvent the military in the wake of lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq--and that includes the way the nation plans for war. Says one official, "The secretary wants to make how we plan for conflicts responsive to changing situations."
But if the Pentagon gives commanders more authority to take aggressive actions in peacetime, as contemplated in Plan 5030, it risks tripping over the president's--and Congress's--authority to commit the nation to war, says a senior official. "Who decides when to go to war?" the official asks. "Good question."
With Thomas Omestad
Quest for Firepower:
How to stop North Korea's drive for nukes.
Slate, 14 July 2003
www.globalresearch.ca 27 July 2003
Two developments over the weekend lend a new urgency to the nuclear crisis that has been brewing in North Korea, all but unattended, for the past nine months.
First, North Korean officials say they have reprocessed all 8,000 of their fuel rods at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, the first and crucial step in producing the plutonium needed to make atom bombs. While they may be exaggerating, reprocessing does seem to have begun (which seemed unclear just a few weeks ago), as indicated by traces of Krypton-85, a chemical byproduct of reprocessing, that U.S. intelligence has detected in the atmosphere nearby.
Second, while North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il may be the battiest leader on the planet, he has good reason to believe Bush wants to overthrow him—even to attack his country, if that's what it takes—and the latest U.S. News & World Report will only reinforce these fears.
The magazine details a draft of a new Pentagon war plan—Plan 5030—that gives American commanders the authority to take highly provocative actions against North Korea even before a war has started. For instance, they can conduct maneuvers or hold surprise military exercises, with the aim of flushing North Korean troops out of their barracks and onto heightened alert. Or they can order RC-135 spy planes to fly right up to the border, forcing the North to scramble jet fighters. The purpose of these actions would be to strain the North Korean military's scarce resources and to sow enough confusion among its officers that they might turn against Kim's regime.
Plan 5030 has not yet been approved, but its very disclosure deepens the crisis—and the opportunity for a settlement. (This may have been the intent of those who leaked the plan—"insiders," according to the story, who worry that the plan's authors are dangerously, and deliberately, blurring the line between war and peace.)
Well over a year ago, Bush famously placed North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, in the "axis of evil"; several high-ranking aides have since expressed desires for "regime change" in Pyongyang as well as Baghdad and Tehran. North Korean foreign ministry officials have been saying for months that they need a "nuclear deterrent" to hold Bush's "hostile" intentions at bay. The lesson they learned from the gulf wars—this year's and 1991's Desert Storm—was that not having nuclear weapons invites American attack.
The news story about Plan 5030—which also reports that the plan's most fervent advocates are the same Pentagon officials who pushed for invading Iraq—will only confirm the North Koreans' perceptions, and thus accelerate their drive for nukes.
Bush can now follow one of three paths. He can push ahead with Plan 5030, step up efforts to destabilize Kim Jong-il's regime, and—in line with the other publicly known U.S. war plan, OPLAN 5027—launch a pre-emptive strike against the Yongbyon nuclear complex and other military targets. This might be a good idea (the world would be a better place without a North Korean bomb and, for that matter, without the Kim Jong-il regime), if Bush's war planners could guarantee they can destroy the complex before any bombs are produced and destroy North Korea's 10,000 or so artillery guns—some of them buried in the sides of mountains (and therefore very hard to hit), several tipped with chemical warheads, and most within range of Seoul (and thus able to kill hundreds of thousands of South Korean civilians, as well as tens of thousands of American soldiers).
The problem, of course, is that no war planner can guarantee such an attack, or even give it an acceptably high probability of success. The risks, and the costs of failure, are way too high. For better or for worse, there is no good military option.
That being the case, Bush has two choices. He can muddle through, as he has been doing—sending envoys to the occasional multilateral chat but otherwise refusing, on some misconceived notion of "principle," to do business with nasty characters—and hope that, not far down the road, Kim's regime collapses, whether from pressure, poverty, or entropy. This course, too, will not likely bear fruit, except for plutonium seedlings from Yongbyon.
So, unless Bush prefers a nuclear North Korea to the pangs of compromise, he is left with one course—a negotiated buy-out. Kim has been requesting such a buy-out ever since the crisis started last October, and if Bush can see beyond the cliché of tagging all such schemes as "blackmail" or "appeasement"—if his advisers could remind him that all diplomacy (especially nuclear diplomacy) involves a certain amount of bribery—there may be a chance to stop this wreck before it happens.
Essentially, Kim's minions say he will abandon his nuclear program and open up the reactors to inspection, in exchange for a U.S. non-aggression pact and the resumption of some economic assistance. This isn't a bad deal, really. A bipartisan group of congressmen who went to Pyongyang last month put a 10-point plan on the table, outlining a way to achieve these ends. The minions said they liked it. No one has explained why Bush shouldn't adopt the plan as his and start the talks.
Obviously, some administration officials think he should go for a negotiated solution. That's why they leaked Plan 5030—to highlight how closely this crisis might veer to war. Kim Jong-il thinks we're going to attack him, so he rushes his nuclear-weapons program to deter the onslaught—which incites Pentagon officials to drum up better plans to attack him. The alarming question before us all: Will Bush break this deadly circle, or complete it?
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