Pre-emptive strike plans in Korea

In response to a question from a reporter about Operational Plan 5015:

In a certain sense, the North Koreans are the victims of their own inflated rhetoric and propaganda about their missile & nuclear programs, as well as their aggressive sea border defence. And, from the standpoint of Seoul, here have been an unending stream of threats and local provocations since Kim Jong-un arrived on the scene in 2009, attempts to change the tactics and balance of power along the DMZ. Recall the deployment of small blue North Korean drones over Seoul, for instance.

Playing the “you started it” game when it comes to the cycle of provocation and counter-provocation is never particularly useful on the Korean peninsula, since it has been going in cycles since at least the creation of the two rival Koreas in 1948, and it is worth noting that North Korea also is not beyond adjusting its own strategies and tactics to deal with South Korea’s technological superiority and tactical changes.

General Scapparrotti, one of the main architects of the plan, points to North Korea’s verified nuclear capability as a trigger for changes to US/ROK joint strategy; he and his colleagues have very little faith in the steadiness of Kim Jong-un’s hand on the nuclear button. It is this lack of faith, along with the loosening of restrains to US doctrine dating back to the George W. Bush administration (i.e., the putative allowance for pre-emptive strikes if a threat is perceived), combined with a hardening of resolve from the Blue House and the ROK Army command, that gave the space for OP 5015 to move forward.

Finally, if you believe that the North Koreans are rational actors capable of planning a few moves ahead and anticipating the response of their rival republic, you could certainly make the argument that they have anticipated precisely the escalated response which they are now getting. The amplification of military pressure arrayed against them can still be warded off, but the escalation aids in keeping the North Korean domestic population by turns quiescent toward the various forms of mobilization (mainly manual labor) demanded by the state and enraged at the external forces.

Image via Huanqiu Shibao, 6 Novemer 2013.


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