The South Korean military on Friday said it believes North Korea will attempt to drive a wedge between the allies and ask Seoul to put a stop to U.S.-ROK joint military drills in exchange for its participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) shared the assessment of this year’s security situation at a joint 2018 policy briefing by five ministries.
“North Korea will attempt to weaken ROK – U.S. cooperation by demanding the suspension of the South-U.S. joint training and the deployment of the U.S. strategic assets to the Korean peninsula under the pretext of its participation in the PyeongChang Olympics,” according to a written statement.
The two Koreas on Wednesday agreed that the North and South would march under a unified Korean flag at next month’s Olympics opening ceremony.
They will also form a single South-North women’s ice hockey team, pending “consultation among the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Olympic Committee of both sides,” among other inter-Korean events.
Following a briefing with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon on Friday, the defense ministry said the North will make the demands now it has announced the “completion of nuclear force as a fait accompli.
The assessment comes days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated his opposition to Beijing’s so-called “suspension for suspension” proposal, which would see a pause in joint military exercises in exchange for a freeze in North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
Speaking at a summit in Vancouver, Tillerson said that all participating nations are “united” in their goal of achieving “the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”
“Let me clear: We will not allow North Korea to drive a wedge through our resolve or our solidarity,” he said. “We reject a “freeze-for-freeze” approach in which legitimate defensive military exercises are placed on the same level of equivalency as the DPRK’s unlawful actions.”
Seoul and Washington agreed earlier in the month to postpone joint-military exercises set to overlap with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February and March.
The Olympics are scheduled to run from February 9 till the 25 – timing which would not typically crossover with the staging of the U.S.-ROK jointly operated Foal Eagle/Key Resolve military drills, which usually begin at the end of February or beginning of March.
However, the PyeongChang Paralympics are scheduled to be held from March 9-18, which would likely overlap with the planned military drills.
South Korea’s MND assesses that 2018 will see the international community “strengthen sanctions on North Korea,” the report on Friday said.
“The U.S. and Japan will put pressures on North Korea to the maximum level mentioning unilateral sanctions and military options,” it continued.
“China and Russia are expected to agree with the adoption of UN Security Council resolution and will take measures of limiting the supplies of crude oil.”
The MND also suggested plans to increase Seoul’s military capabilities, pledging to “establish readiness posture against local provocation and complete military readiness for full-scale war.”
The defense ministry said the “establishment of the concept of offensive operation is required” given the “sophisticated” nature of North Korea’s nuclear missile capabilities are in another document seen by NK News.
The military reiterated that “deterrence and reaction capability should be secured based on the strong three-axis system.”
The three-axis platform is Seoul’s plan to respond to a DPRK missile and nuclear attacks, and includes the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike program, the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) systems.
The defense ministry said the key goal of the offensive operations is to “achieve the complete victory ‘making the minimum sacrifice in the shortest time,’” according to the document.
Offensive operations will be initiated if the North “launches all-out provocations including nuclear and missile attacks against our territory and the attack of long-range artillery against the metropolitan area.”
In August, President Moon Jae-in urged the military to develop its defense readiness to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the DPRK attacks the South.
Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo said in November that the future offensive military operations would be modeled after operations drawn from the 2003 Iraq War.
While enhancing the military capabilities, the MND said they would prepare for upcoming military talks between the two Koreas.
“We will prepare for consultation concentrating on relaxing military tensions and creating peaceful conditions,” the document read. “We will push forward from the working-level military talks to meeting between the military authorities.”
But the ministry also said they would come up with ways to “expand the routine deployment of the U.S. strategic assets.”
Seoul and Washington will also strengthen its cooperation in prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and developing capabilities aimed at responding to “nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiation threats” from Pyongyang.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: U.S. Pacific Command
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 822 words of this article.