Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners - News from the Associate Director, Security Studies Program
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
U.S. Dials Back on Korean Show of Force Administration 'Playbook' Outlined Publicized Exercises, but Officials Change Course Over Worries of North's Response
Damn. A perception of weakness and potentially a perception of loss of resolve. I think this is a mistake. The north will think the red lines have moved even farther out there. This will embolden them. And combined with the White House spokesman's remarks on restraining the ROK from a unilateral response we are showing a potential crack in the Alliance. We can and probably should dial back but we should not be explaining it this way. If asked we should say we can deploy and redeploy assets at the time and place of our choosing just as we have demonstrated. The reporting on internal deliberations and cautions and fears is unhelpful and those who are providing this information have undermined the actions of the last month.
Updated April 3, 2013, 9:15 p.m. ET
U.S. Dials Back on Korean Show of Force
Administration 'Playbook' Outlined Publicized Exercises, but Officials Change Course Over Worries of North's Response
Kurt Campbell, head of the Asia Group and former Asst. Sec of State for East Asia & Pacific, talks with WSJ's Jerry Seib and David Wessel about what's behind North Korea's recent actions and why has the U.S. responded with so much muscle.
WASHINGTON—After a high-visibility display of military power aimed at deterring North Korean provocations, the White House is dialing back the aggressive posture amid fears that it could inadvertently trigger an even deeper crisis, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. is putting a pause to what several officials described as a step-by-step plan the Obama administration approved earlier this year, dubbed "the playbook," that laid out the sequence and publicity plans for U.S. shows of force during annual war games with South Korea. The playbook included well-publicized flights in recent weeks near North Korea by nuclear-capable B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers, as well as advanced F-22 warplanes.
The U.S. stepped back from the plans this week, as U.S. officials began to worry that the North, which has a small nuclear arsenal and an unpredictable new leader, may be more provoked than the U.S. had intended, the officials said.
"The concern was that we were heightening the prospect of misperceptions on the part of the North Koreans, and that that could lead to miscalculations," a senior administration official said.
Pyongyang's Nuclear Program
Milestones in North Korean nuclear-weapons development.
Officials said the U.S. didn't believe North Korea had any imminent plans to take military action in response to the exercises. Rather, the shift reflects concerns within the administration that the North, caught off guard, could do something rash, contrary to intelligence assessments showing that it is unlikely to respond militarily to the U.S. show of force.
The shift also came after the Navy confirmed reports on Monday that the U.S. had sent two guided-missile destroyers to the waters off South Korea—a deployment that the White House and Pentagon hadn't intended to publicize and wasn't part of the playbook, officials said.