WASHINGTON: The United States and South Korea held a “tabletop” exercise at the Pentagon on the nuclear threat from Pyongyang, the two countries said on February 23.
“Given the DPRK’s recent aggressive nuclear policy and advancements in nuclear capabilities, the… scenario focused on the possibility of the DPRK’s use of nuclear weapons,” a joint statement said, referring to North Korea.
The US and South Korean delegations “focused their discussion on alliance deterrence to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and potential options for responding to DPRK nuclear weapons use,” the statement said.
“Both sides affirmed that the alliance stands ready to respond to the DPRK’s nuclear threats.”
The delegations — which were made up of military and defence officials as well as personnel from South Korea’s foreign ministry and the US State Department — held the exercise on February 22, the same day as separate drills by Washington, Seoul and Tokyo in the Sea of Japan.
Those drills were held with an emphasis on “sharing ballistic missile target information and mastering detection, tracking, and interception procedures,” Seoul’s defence ministry said in a statement.
On February 23, the US and South Korean delegations visited a submarine base in Georgia.
During the visit, a senior US Navy officer “explained the mission of Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBNs), and emphasised that SSBN forces operated by the US are a key means of providing US extended deterrence to Allies,” the statement said.
North Korea has test-fired four strategic cruise missiles into the sea, state media said on February 24, adding that the drill demonstrated the conflict readiness of Pyongyang’s “nuclear combat force.”
It was the latest in a series of provocative weapons tests that have sent tensions soaring on the Korean peninsula — and heightened fears that the North might conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
The four “Hwasal-2” missiles were fired from the area of Kim Chaek City in North Hamgyong province towards the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, at dawn on February 23, the Korean Central News Agency stated.
They traveled 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) before “precisely” hitting their target, the report said, without specifying what the targets were.