U.S. scripts North Korea 'playbook'
A North Korean soldier looks through binoculars at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on April 4, 2013
April 4th, 2013
09:04 AM ET

U.S. scripts North Korea 'playbook'

By Barbara Starr

The Obama administration established a "playbook" of pre-scripted actions and responses to the last several weeks of North Korean rhetoric and provocations, an administration official said Thursday.

The plan, the official explained, basically details "if the adversary does this, we do this, we say this."

The scripted actions included an increased show of U.S. military force - such as the flying of B-2 bombers - during the annual U.S.-South Korea military exercise, the Foal Eagle.

"Eyebrows started to go up when it was clear Foal Eagle was going to be protected from the budget cuts of sequestration," the official said, referring to the forced federal spending cuts that went into effect in March.

The playbook planning actually began under former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, but was picked up and supported strongly by now-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the official said.

Details of the playbook were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The administration official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Some moves not scripted

At the same time, some of the U.S. military's reactions to Pyongyang's saber-rattling were not part of the playbook planning.

Instead, they arose from concerns about what North Korea has planned as the U.S.-South Korean exercise comes to an end, the administration official said.

Those moves include the deployment of ballistic missile defenses closer to North Korea, and a land based missile-intercept system to Guam.

Those actions were ordered in recent days when U.S. intelligence began to gather information that North Korea might be planning additional missile launches.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee in Seoul Thursday that the North has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast for an imminent test firing or military drill. The missile doesn't appear to be aimed at the U.S. mainland, Kim said, according to the semi-official South Korean news agency Yonhap.

The movement of the missile is "of concern, certainly to the U.S. military and to Japan," said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

He said he believed the missile in question was a Musudan, a weapon the North hasn't tested before that is based on a Soviet system with a range of about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles), far enough to reach Japan but not Guam.

A 'complicated, combustible situation'

U.S. officials have publicly stressed that the American military moves - including the sending of B-52 bombers and F-22 fighter jets, in addition to the B-2 bombers - were meant as much to assure the South Koreans that they have Washington's full support and not an excessive response to an unpredictable North.

"What I can tell you is that our response and the mix of assets we have applied to our responses is prudent, logical and measured," Pentagon spokesman George Little said earlier this week.

"We are in the midst right now of - of very important annual exercises that we regularly conduct with the South Koreans, and these exercises are about alliance assurance. They're first and foremost about showing the South Koreans and showing our other allies in the region, including the Japanese, that we are ready to defend them in the wake of threats."

When asked by CNN earlier this week about the "message" the United States was trying to send to North Korea, Little said it was the North Koreans who are being provocative.

"The North Koreans - even before those exercises started - had undertaken provocative steps, and they've conducted underground nuclear tests, they've conducted missile tests outside their international obligations. So they have a track record now over the past few months of provocative behavior," he said.

"We are in the business of ensuring our South Korean allies that we will help defend them in the face of threats," Little said in response. "So I don't think it's a contradiction. I think that North Koreans have engaged in certain actions and have said things that are provocative. We are looking for the temperature to be taken down on the Korean Peninsula."

Hagel hinted at risks in reacting to North Korea, calling the tensions a "complicated, combustible situation" that could "explode into a worse situation."

"It only takes being wrong once. And I don't want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once. So we will continue to take these threats seriously. I hope the North will ratchet this very dangerous rhetoric down," Hagel said Wednesday.

"But they've got to be a responsible member of the world community. And you don't achieve that responsibility and peace and prosperity by making nuclear threats and taking very provocative actions."

CNN's Chris Lawrence contributed to this report

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Everyone seems to be saying either: (1) go to war with North Korea or (2) the missiles will not hit the United States. Have you guys even thought about the repercussions this will have on South Korea? Not everything is about the United States. Yes, if we do go to war with North Korea SOUTH KOREANS WILL BE THE ONES SUFFERING NOT THE UNITED STATES. Jesus.

    April 5, 2013 at 4:00 am | Reply
  2. Kevin Town

    It's time people...it's time. The USA has dealt with N. Korea for decades, and it will never end if we do not silence the, once and for all. I am 100% for war with them, and I hope there are No survivors!

    April 4, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Reply
    • Darqween Duck

      Kim JOng Un said " My Peopre risten to me your reader. I have a vely smarr prenis. Just rike a rittle baby. My dad used to call me needle dik the bug fu&*er".

      April 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  3. Ed

    It seems the current administration has considered all options but one. That option being what would happen if North Korea fired a nuclear armed missile into the sea as a show of force? That escalation would put the United States and its allies into a very difficult position. By targeting a patch of ocean, and not anything else, North Korea would place itself in the position of confirming its nuclear capabilities and causing the United States and its allies to reconsider all of its options. This would also force the United States and its allies to expend significantly more resources to counter this increase in threat capability.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
    • Zavier

      I think in that case we'd go by UNCLOS III, depending on the waters, and where it hit, and if that country agrees to it, but I think we'd be likely to go by this. Maybe not it all depends on who they are targeting, but the sea isn't just some resource you can bomb and have it be okay, the UN has conventions for that, not saying the UN has power or anything, but some nations could say "oh that's against this so we're taking action", sorry to be so casual about it, but after getting a bachelors in political science I hate being formal about it lol.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Reply
      • Ed

        Good points, but still the issue remains what to do about it. A military response would be playing into North Korea's hands, with a strike against them being played up by the North Korean government as a unprovoked attack. I would also think that they would use any casualties from such a strike for propaganda purposes.

        April 4, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  4. Peshwar

    The George Bush `premtive option' would have eliminated this threat last week. Let's see what Obama has the nerve to do.

    April 4, 2013 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Let me see, President Obama had the nerve to go after OBL, the mastermind of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

      April 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Reply
      • 1371usmc

        Obama didn't go after anyone. He set in a room and watched a feed of the men that did go. Not to mention he could have never done that without the Intel that was gained by GWB.

        April 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
      • Pete

        @1371usmc,and what crap have you been smoking ole wise jarhead if not dropped too many times on your head as well..Bushs buddy was BinLaden and if you read history both Bushs worked for Carlyle group in New York years before for BinLadens old man a billionaire middleeastern construction company owner..Bushs never wanted BinLaden killed and if you remember in Bora Bora he stood down a military attack that would have killed BinLaden so read marine before acting out and if you are a marine info like you're saying would have got you killed right. And yes Pres.Obama does have the balls something none of your republicans will ever have I must say and you buddy better have a little more respect for your Commander and Chief than that nitwit.!!

        April 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • IdiotRighty

      GWB would have mired us in another war that would crumble our economy, and then choke on a pretzel and do a line of blow.

      April 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Reply
      • 1371usmc

        Kinda like Obama funding the conflicts in Libya, Egypt, and Sirya. While still continueing the other wars he said he was going to end but did not?

        April 4, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
      • BigShiz

        Yea,5 million to 3 trillion. 1371 your wrong.(why don't you go ahead and look that one up)

        April 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Mike

      Yes, lets start an unwinnable war in Korea, that sounds like a great idea!!! Did you not read any history at all?? Do you not think that NK's only ally, China, will covertly come to their aid again?? Or worse, openly come to their aid and start WW3???

      April 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Reply
    • Crypticpikle

      Just hold your horses...we do NOT need to take a shot first–bad policy.

      April 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  5. sal

    Amid all the threats from north korea, any test missle fired from North korea, should be shot down, Not knowing the intended target.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply

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