By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have completed a draft of a joint military plan that outlines how to handle the North Korean nuclear threat, a government source said Sunday.
South Korean and U.S. officials have prepared a customized deterrence plan over the last 10 months, which will be signed at the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) between the two nation's defense chiefs slated for Oct. 2, the source said.
"The deterrence plan can be considered equivalent to an operational plan," another source said, requesting anonymity. "Making an official document detailing the U.S. nuclear umbrella reflects its firm commitment against North Korea's atomic weapons threat."
The written plan encompasses political, diplomatic and military measures to specify how to provide a nuclear umbrella on the Korean Peninsula in the case of North Korean nuclear provocations.
The defense ministry later confirmed the drafting of the plan, which it said is aiming to beef up the effectiveness of the U.S. pledge to extend deterrence against the North Korean nuclear threat.
"Both countries are in working-level discussions to finalize the plan with an aim to complete it in the forthcoming SCM this year," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Mins-seok said.
The plan details contingency counter-actions against various nuclear provocations from the North, he said.
Seoul's defense ministry reported to parliament that Pyongyang has made considerable progress in developing a fairly robust nuclear program in the past three years and is capable of making atomic weapons at any time.
Tensions escalated between the two Koreas when Pyongyang fired a long-range rocket in December. The test was deemed as a cover to test its ballistic missile technology. The communist country then conducted its third atomic test in February despite universal warnings from the international community to desist. Both actions invited additional U.N. Security Council sanctions against the impoverished nation.
In April, the North announced that its nuclear scientists will begin work on restarting a uranium enrichment plant and a 5-megawatt reactor in the Yongbyon complex.
Amid inter-Korean talks to resume cross-border projects, Pyongyang expressed its willingness to rejoin the six-party talks but has shown no signs of accepting conditions set by Seoul and Washington to give up its nuclear capabilities. Instead, it has insisted on being recognized as a nuclear power.
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