U.S. Said to Treat North Korea as Nuclear Adversary in Contingency Plans

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 25, 2014, 7:41 a.m.

In its con­tin­gency plan­ning, Wash­ing­ton for the first time is treat­ing North Korea as a nuc­le­ar-armed op­pon­ent, the New York Times re­por­ted on Thursday.

Spe­cif­ics about the most re­cent re­vi­sion of the “OpPlan 5029” strategy for a po­ten­tial new Korean War are clas­si­fied. Some uniden­ti­fied of­fi­cials talked to the news­pa­per about as­pects of the “what-if” scen­ari­os, which ima­gine a pos­sib­il­ity for Py­ongy­ang to build a simple atom­ic weapon and at­tempt to de­liv­er it by ship or truck.

The de­vel­op­ment comes as Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies in East Asia stead­fastly re­fuse to char­ac­ter­ize North Korea as a nuc­le­ar-armed state.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials do not think Py­ongy­ang has de­veloped the abil­ity to mini­atur­ize nuc­le­ar arms enough to fit on a bal­list­ic mis­sile. The North, however, could make head­way in that re­spect if it test-det­on­ates a fourth atom­ic device — as ap­pears in­creas­ingly likely.

Be­hind closed doors, Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are ac­know­ledging the long­time policy of “stra­tegic pa­tience” to­ward North Korea has been un­suc­cess­ful, the Times re­por­ted.

“We have failed,” Evans Revere, a former seni­or of­fi­cial for East Asi­an is­sues in the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, said in an in­ter­view. “For two dec­ades our policy has been to keep the North Koreans from de­vel­op­ing nuc­le­ar weapons. It’s now clear there is no way they will give them up. … So now what?”

A re­cent at­tempt by the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil to de­vel­op a new plan for end­ing the North Korea nuc­le­ar im­passe came up empty when it was de­term­ined that all oth­er po­ten­tial policy de­vi­ations were worse than the cur­rent pos­ture, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

“We’re stuck,” said one in­di­vidu­al who took part in the re­view.

A move by ruler Kim Jong Un to fo­cus more on mo­bile mis­siles in­stead of sta­tion­ary ones has meant the United States has a harder time de­tect­ing when a mis­sile fir­ing is im­min­ent. The launch­ers are routinely moved between tun­nels, mak­ing them harder to mon­it­or by satel­lite, de­fense of­fi­cials said.

“He’s gone to school on how we op­er­ate,” said Army Gen. Curtis Scapar­rotti, who com­mands U.S. forces on the Korean Pen­in­sula.

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