PENTAGON STEPS UP NORTH KOREA MILITARY PLANNING
The Pentagon is intensifying military planning for war on the Korean Peninsula despite the apparent thaw between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile program.
Pentagon officials say the military planning has increased in recent weeks and involves reworking and refining Op Plan 5027, as the war plan for a conflict against North Korea is called.
The activity is being done by planners in the Pentagon in coordination with officials from U.S. Forces Korea, the military command in South Korea. The objective is to determine how best to execute President Trump’s order to eliminate the North Korean nuclear program.
The stepped-up planning comes as Pyongyang signaled this week that it is ready to hold talks with the United States and South Korea on its nuclear program.
Current administration policy toward North Korea is to impose maximum diplomatic and financial pressure, resulting in dozens of new economic and financial sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong-un in a bid to force him to back down. Intelligence officials assess that the sanctions are beginning to have an impact on North Korea’s already weak economy.
Mr. Trump took credit for the latest overture and tweeted that the response indicated “possible progress.” But he also said the United States remains ready to use force.
“For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned,” the president tweeted. “The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”
Pre-emptive U.S. military action is widely viewed as producing devastation for South Korea and possibly Japan, which both have U.S. military bases, and could quickly escalate to a nuclear exchange. North Korea’s military readiness was discussed on Capitol Hill at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week.
Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said North Korean threats to turn the South Korean capital of Seoul into a “sea of fire” are not propaganda.
“I’m not sure of the phrase, but it would be a significant amount of casualties,” Gen. Ashley said.
North Korea’s army uses outdated Soviet-era design weapons, including massive amounts of artillery deployed close to the Demilitarized Zone separating the Koreas.
They include self-propelled artillery and guns and howitzers ranging in size from tubes with 122-millimeter to 152-millimeter barrels. Also deployed are North Korean-produced Koksan guns of 170-millimeter caliber. Rocket artillery includes at least three calibers of multiple rocket launchers, in 107-, 122- and 240-millimeter sizes, many mounted on trucks. Gen. Ashley said the majority of the artillery weapons are well-maintained.