- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

HONOLULU A revised U.S.-South Korean operational plan for war against North Korea has given a much higher priority than earlier versions to defeating North Korea's special-operations forces, or commandos.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the United States is engaged in "prudent planning" for "all sorts of contingencies."
Military officers confirmed that North Korea's commandos were among the targets to which Gen. Myers referred.
Intelligence reports say North Korea has 100,000 to 120,000 highly trained special-operations forces, up from 70,000 a few years ago. They are organized into 23 brigades and 18 smaller independent battalions.
In the event of war, the North Korean special-operations mission would be to open a "second front" behind South Korean and U.S. forces below the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula, according to U.S. intelligence, a considerable amount of which has been declassified.
Their operations would include cutting communication lines, assaulting command posts, assassinating senior South Korean and American officers, and kidnapping South Korean political leaders.
The special forces are expected to infiltrate South Korea by sea, land and air. Because 86 percent of South Korea's border is coastline sprinkled with hundreds of rocky islets, it would be conducive to infiltration by North Korean mini-submarines, high-speed boats and air-cushioned amphibious craft.
They also would try to come through an estimated 20 tunnels dug under the DMZ in the past 30 years and over land through the sparsely populated and mountainous reaches of eastern Korea, military authorities say.
They say the North Koreans would parachute into South Korea from old Russian transport planes flying low to challenge radar.
In response, Operations Plan 5027-02 (02 refers to the year) calls for several types of counterstrikes: assaulting North Korean special-operations bases before those bases' forces infiltrate South Korea, including attacks by U.S. and South Korean commandos; and sinking the North Korean ships as they came down the coast before they could land commandos.
The plan also calls for added steps to protect U.S. and South Korean bases.
Late last year, a team from the U.S. 353rd Special Operations Group left its home base in Okinawa, a Japanese island about 550 miles southeast of South Korea's southern coast, to train with counterparts in South Korea's Special Warfare Command.
It was the first time that such joint training had taken place, according to a report by the 353rd Special Operations Group.
Intelligence officers, operational planners and flight crews went over aircraft configurations, flight routes, refueling methods and ground maneuvers.
South Korea's Special Warfare Command "wants to make sure that there are no misunderstandings between the air crews and jumpers," said South Korean Maj. Bae Gyung-guen.
The United States knows much about operating behind the lines in North Korea as a result of extensive, if little known, operations such as one called White Tiger there during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Volumes of after-action reports and a few memoirs are the basis of this intelligence.
About the same time the 353rd Special Operations Group was in South Korea, senior officers at the U.S. air base in Osan, about 40 miles south of Seoul, were quoted in the base newspaper as saying they worried most "about enemy special forces taking out the base."
They figured it would take 1,000 security troops to defend the base's 6-mile perimeter, but they had only 400.
They responded by organizing the base's cooks, post office clerks and 500 other supposedly noncombat airmen into a reserve to augment the security unit.
Operations Plan 5027 is revised every two years jointly by South Korean and American officers.
It provides the fundamental strategy for defending South Korea and details the positions of almost all targets in North Korea. It further assigns U.S. and South Korean units and weapons to attack them.
Plan 5027-98 includes provisions for a pre-emptive attack on North Korea in which targets are assigned and the forces need only to receive the order to go.
The North Koreans are believed to know the general outline of plan 5027. Many view it as a factor in North Korea's latest threats and its desire for a nonaggression pact with the United States.

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