Seoul, Washington plan for tabletop drill

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Seoul, Washington plan for tabletop drill

South Korea and the United States will hold an annual discussion-based tabletop exercise (TTX) this week to bolster their combined response against North Korea’s nuclear threats, the Ministry of National Defense said Monday.

According to the government, the two allies will carry out their fifth TTX at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California over three days starting on Wednesday.

The exercise is organized by the Deterrence Strategy Committee (DSC), which works to strengthen Seoul and Washington’s combined deterrence capabilities against North Korea.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, which the regime claimed was a hydrogen bomb, and subsequently launched a long-range missile on Feb. 7.

“This meeting will include more in-depth and serious discussion since it’s the first to take place after North Korea’s nuclear test and long-range missile test,” a source at the Defense Ministry said, adding that South Korea will evaluate the U.S. military’s assets for extended deterrence.

“The fifth TTX will involve a series of simulations in which North Korea threatens with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles,” the source said.

“The two countries will assess the level of threats in political and military aspects and discuss countermeasures.”

South Korea, represented by Ryu Je-seung, the deputy minister for national defense policy, will be joined by Elaine Bunn, the deputy assistant secretary for nuclear and missile defense policy in the U.S. Defense Department, and Abraham Denmark, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.

The two allies have conducted the tabletop exercise since the establishment of the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee (EDPC) in 2011.

South Korea and the United States are currently preparing for their largest-ever joint military drills in March.

The recent threats by Pyongyang have also renewed fierce debate over the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-ballistic system on the Korean Peninsula and the South’s standalone nuclear defenses.

The Key Resolve exercise, scheduled to begin March 7, will involve 15,000 American troops and powerful U.S. military capabilities, including a combat aviation brigade, a nuclear-powered submarine group and aerial refueling aircraft.

The scale of U.S. troops and assets to be deployed for the upcoming joint military drills will be double what the United States has sent in past years, according to the Defense Ministry.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KIM SO-HEE [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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