The Korea Herald


S. Korea, U.S. to begin joint drills soon

By Song Sangho

Published : Feb. 15, 2011 - 19:38

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Seoul denies exercises are based on plan to deal with N.K. contingencies

South Korea and the U.S. will begin an 11-day joint military exercise from Feb. 28 to prepare against additional localized provocations by North Korea and other possible emergencies on the peninsula, officials said Tuesday.

Along with the Key Resolve command post exercise, the two militaries will also stage the Foal Eagle field training exercise concurrently, which will run through April 30, the allies’ Combined Forces Command said.

“We are exercising alliance actions to a number of realistic scenarios beyond defeating a conventional attack,” said CFC commander Gen. Walter Sharp in a press release. “Through these scenarios, we will exercise alliance crisis management, deterring and rapidly defeating provocations and defensive operations.”

During the two nationwide exercises, which the communist state has berated as “nuclear-war drills,” the U.S. military will mobilize some 12,800 troops while the South will muster up some 200,000 troops including some of its reserve forces, officials said.

A military source said that the exercise will involve a U.S. aircraft carrier. However, the CFC refused to confirm it. The nuclear-powered 96,000-ton USS John C. Stennis of the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet participated in the 2009 exercises.

Saying that this year’s Key Resolve exercise will be based on Operational Plan 5027 centering on a scenario of an all-out war with the North, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff denied the news reports that the exercise will be based on “CONPLAN 5029.”

Conceptual Plan 5029 is designed to deal with contingencies in the North such as internal unrest, a regime collapse or mass outflow of North Korean refugees. Seoul has been reluctant to mention the plan for fear of provoking the North.

As the abstract plan does not outline concrete courses of military action concerning troop mobilizations, arrangement of military installations and other activities in the event of contingencies in the North, the allies have reportedly been working on developing the conceptual plan into a detailed operational version.

“The exercise will be based on OPLAN 5027 centering on the possibility of a full-scale war. We will also practice our military capabilities for a variety of scenarios including localized provocations such as the sinking of the Cheonan and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island,” JCS spokesperson Lee Bung-woo told reporters.

“There were reports that CONPLAN 5029 has been developed into an operational plan. But it is still at a conceptual level.”

Security experts have voiced the need to quickly complete the development of OPLAN 5029 given that the possibility of instabilities in the North rises as the health of its leader Kim Jong-il, believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, is waning.

CONPLAN 5029 is said to deal with six scenarios of North Korean instabilities.

The scenarios are a civil war in case of the sudden death of its leader Kim; a popular uprising against the iron-fisted rule; extortion of weapons of mass destruction by rebel forces and their outflow abroad; massive defection of North Koreans; large-scale natural disasters; and kidnapping of South Koreans staying in the North.

The U.S. has reportedly demanded that the South accelerate the efforts to covert the conceptual plan into an operational version.

Seoul is said to have rejected the demand apparently not to aggravate relations with the North, which sees the operational plan as a scheme to topple its regime. But following the two attacks last year that killed 50 people including two civilians, the South has apparently thought twice about the plan.

Observers said Washington is mainly concerned about the possibility that in case of instabilities, North Korea’s nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction could get into the wrong hands including those of anti-U.S. terrorist organizations.

According to South Korea’s defense white paper published last December, North Korea has 2,500-5,000 tons of chemical weapons, presumably stored across the country.

The North is also presumed to have obtained some 40 kilograms of plutonium after reprocessing spent fuel rods four times until 2009. The North obtained the spent fuel rods through the operation of a five-mega-watt reactor since the 1980s.

During the exercises, the allies also plan to intensify and expand their drills focusing on eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

A larger number of the troops from the U.S. 20th Support Command based in Maryland will join the WMD-removal drills, sources said. The command, which was created in October 2004, sent 150 troops in 2009 and 350 troops in 2010 for the annual drills, according to them.

Earlier in the day, the U.N. Command informed the North Korean military of the exercise dates, saying that the training is “entirely defensive in nature.”

By Song Sang-ho (