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SKorea, US to hold ‘table-top’ exercise next week against NKorean nuke threats

Seoul, Feb 17 (IANS) South Korea and the US will stage a combined military exercise at the Pentagon next week under the scenario of nuclear use by North Korea, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday.

Led by the allies’ Deterrence Strategy Committee, the discussion-based table-top exercise (TTX) is set to take place Wednesday (local time), according to the ministry, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The following day, TTX participants plan to visit the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, a southeastern coastal base home to key nuclear submarines, in what would be a show of America’s naval heft.

Deputy Defence Minister for Policy Heo Tae-keun will lead the South Korean delegation. The US side will be headed by Siddharth Mohandas, deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, and Richard Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of defence for nuclear and countering weapons of mass destruction policy.

The exercise will simulate a scenario of North Korean nuclear use and discuss crisis management and military responses, the ministry said.

“With a focus on North Korea’s nuclear threats, the two sides will have in-depth discussions on various ways to strengthen the US’ extended deterrence, such as intelligence sharing and consultation procedures between the two countries,” it said.

Extended deterrence refers to the US’ commitment to mobilising a full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its allies.

Seoul officials attached a special meaning to the planned visit to the naval base running submarines — a key pillar of the so-called nuclear triad consisting of three nuclear delivery vehicles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and strategic bombers.

The two sides already made joint visits to US bases housing ICBMs and bombers during previous TTX events and bilateral defence ministerial talks, the officials said.

“It will be the first joint visit by South Korean and US delegations to a US nuclear submarine base,” an official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Launched in 2011, the TTX had been held annually. But under the preceding liberal Moon Jae-in administration keen on inter-Korean rapprochement, it took place only twice, including the last edition in Seoul in September 2021.