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South Korea Reviews Nuclear War Plan

Jung Sung-ki / The Korea Times | October 12 2006

The military has stepped up preparations for a possible nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula since North Korea's proclaimed nuclear weapons test Monday.

According to sources at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the military is reviewing plans to revise the current theater war plan, drawn up by the South Korean and U.S. militaries, in case of war on the peninsula to make it include detailed measures for a nuclear war.

The JCS has submitted two reports to Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung since Oct. 3 when Pyongyang announced its plan to conduct a nuclear test, they said.

``Things have changed completely,'' a JCS official said on condition of anonymity. ``We can't help reviewing the joint contingency plan with the U.S. military to counter an allegedly nuclear-armed Pyongyang.''

The move comes at a time when public concerns are growing over North Korea's nuclear threat. Military analysts say if the North detonates a 10-kiloton atomic bomb in the air, about 10 percent of South Korean frontline Army divisions would be neutralized. The reclusive state is believed to have up to seven nuclear weapons of about 20 kilotons.

A group of 17 former defense ministers and veterans yesterday issued a statement denouncing the nuclear device test as well as presenting a new national security scheme including a nuclear war plan.

Under the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC)'s war plan, called ``OPLAN 5027,'' the United States is to provide troops and weapons systems to reinforce South Korea in the event of an external armed attack.

Washington is committed to dispatching some 690,000 troops with 1,600 aircraft and 160 ships to the peninsula within 90 days after a war breaks out, under the plan.

The plan, however, was mainly designed to deter North Korean forces armed with conventional weapons, lacking specific action plans to cope with a nuclear war.

The JCS reports also include plans to introduce high-tech weaponry capable of destroying the North's nuclear delivery systems including warheads, military headquarters and major intelligence and communication facilities, the officials said.

``South Korea's ongoing arms buildup plan to meet the country's takeover of independent wartime command is likely to now more focus on acquiring weapons systems to deter Pyongyang's nuclear threat,'' an official said.

In a National Assembly session on Wednesday, Defense Minister Yoon unveiled plans to boost military capabilities to neutralize North Korea's weapons of mass destruction.

``If the Assembly approves the required defense budget, the military will bolster capabilities to carry out surgical strikes on WMD storages in the North,'' Yoon said.

Under a 15-year defense reform plan, the ministry is seeking to introduce state-of-the-art weapons, such as Patriot Advanced Capability interceptors, 7,000 ton-class Aegis destroyers equipped with cruise missiles, satellite-guided joint direct attack missiles and F-15K-level combat aircraft in stages until 2012.

A senior ministry official said yesterday the timeline for the weapons introduction would be accelerated for two or three years to build ``asymmetrical military capabilities'' with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The minister also noted the U.S. military's security commitment to South Korea, including the provision of a nuclear umbrella, hinting at the possibility that Seoul may try to take advantage of U.S. strategic nuclear weapons deployed near the peninsula, such as the U.S. Navy's Aegis destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles or B-52 bombers, to destroy the North's nuclear capabilities.
According to a government report submitted to the Assembly, the country's armed forces have conducted simulation exercise trainings to prepare for a possible nuclear war since February 2005, when Pyongyang declared its nuclear possession.

``The military has strengthened `aggressive but defensive' trainings for maintaining combat readiness and guaranteeing soldiers' survival in a potential nuclear war,'' the report said.

South Korea, backed by some 29,000 U.S. forces, maintains 690,000 troops armed with advanced weapons systems against the North's 1.17-million-member armed forces. The South's defense expenditures reached $23 billion last year. North Korea reportedly spent $6 billion in 2004, according to a ministry report.

 

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