by Shane Green – The Age (Australia)
TOYKO — The United States is reported to be developing new North Korean war plans that would bypass the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas and target North Korea’s leadership in Pyongyang. The plan is based on the success of US-led forces in Iraq in quickly reaching Baghdad.
US officials said that under the plan, US and South Korean forces would be consolidated in two areas away from the DMZ. If war broke out, the forces would skirt the DMZ and head for Pyongyang. “This is Kim Jong-il’s worst nightmare,” one official said.
The report also said the recently announced $11 billion upgrade of the capabilities of US forces in South Korea would give them the ability to “take down” North Korea’s heavy presence on the border within an hour of war breaking out.
The report coincided with a visit to South Korea and Japan by US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Speaking in Tokyo after meeting Japan’s Defense Minister, Shigeru Ishiba, Wolfowitz would not be drawn on the reported plans. But he said the US wanted to update its “force posture” so it could counter a North Korean attack “more quickly and more effectively”.
In South Korea on Monday, Wolfowitz warned of a “devastatingly effective” response against any North Korean military aggression.
The US has 45,000 troops in South Korea, including 15,000 members of the Second Infantry Division deployed near the DMZ. But it appeared likely they would be moved as part of a realignment of US forces in the country.
Wolfowitz said the realignment of the 37,000 US troops in South Korea should not wait until the North Korean nuclear crisis was dealt with. “It is not something that should wait until the nuclear problem is solved, as though somehow it’s going to weaken our posture,” he said. “To the contrary, it’s part of an effort to strengthen our overall posture on the peninsula, including . . . a very substantial investment by the United States in some 150 systems that will enhance our ability to provide for early defense against a North Korean attack.”
Wolfowitz acknowledged that North Korea now had “certain advantages over us, which they continue to press”. He did not specify what the advantages were, but North Korea has an estimated 11,000 pieces of artillery aimed at the South Korean capital of Seoul, only 50 kilometers from the DMZ.
But Mr Wolfowitz said the US also had some considerable advantages, pointing to the “remarkable military capabilities” demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said the US believed it was important to “update our force posture from where it was 10 years ago, to take advantage of those capabilities”.