The Defense Ministry is drafting a new plan to thwart a full-fledged North Korean military offensive and occupy Pyongyang within weeks without waiting for U.S. troop reinforcements.
The ministry on Monday briefed President Moon Jae-in on its key objectives and vowed to formulate an "aggressive wartime action plan led by our military."
Cheong Wa Dae quoted Moon as saying, "Push for reform of the military structure to meet the requirements of modern warfare so that it can quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation that crosses the line or attacks the capital region."
He also urged ministry officials "to further improve the military's mobility, landing abilities and air defense capabilities." A military source said the gist of the plan is "the mobilization of airborne troops and Marines to infiltrate Pyongyang to quickly bring down the North Korean regime."
Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told reporters, "In the event of an invasion from the North, we will engage in an aggressive, deep-offensive operation" inside North Korea. The ultimate aim is to keep any war as brief as possible.
The present South Korea-U.S. military plan, dubbed OPLAN 5015, envisages U.S. aircraft carriers, fighter planes and Marines responding swiftly to a North Korean attack before massive U.S. troop reinforcements arrive, which could take months.
It also includes preemptive strikes against North Korean nuclear weapons and missile bases as well as operations to assassinate high-ranking North Korean officials. But even that means it will take considerable time before South Korean mechanized divisions can arrive in Pyongyang.
The new South Korean plan aims to patch the weaknesses of the joint plan. It will apparently identify more than 1,000 North Korean targets for missiles and precision-guided weapons and envisage deploying airborne troops and Marines to Pyongyang to bring the North Korean regime down rapidly.
The ministry also briefed Moon on attempts to clean up defense acquisition. "If North Korea is focusing on nuclear and missile development, which are asymmetric capabilities, instead of conventional weapons, then we too must have asymmetric countermeasures," Moon said.
He noted that South Korea's GDP is 45 times larger than that of North Korea, so Seoul's defense capabilities should easily overwhelm those of North Korea. But he asked if the military is in fact able to do that, and chided top brass for spending massive amounts of money on weapons while still being reliant on U.S. troops.