US, South Korea to hold anti-DPRK nuclear tabletop drills
South Korea's defense minister says the drills will take place in February, but more comprehensive drills are set to take place in May.
South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup announced that his country and the United States will hold tabletop exercises (TTX) in February involving American nuclear forces, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The exercises aim to increase readiness facing DPRK's "nuclear threats", the Minister added.
On January 3, South Korea's presidential office said Seoul and Washington are discussing joint planning and exercises involving US nuclear assets to counter growing "North Korean threats," despite US President Joe Biden saying earlier that no such joint drills would take place.
The statement was issued after Biden stated that the US was not discussing joint nuclear exercises with South Korea, seemingly contradicting remarks made earlier this month by Seoul's President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Last September, DPRK passed legislation that declares the country a nuclear-weapon state, giving its leader, Kim Jong Un, sole authority over nuclear decisions, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported then, citing Pyongyang's state media.
Read more: N. Korea ready to mobilize nuclear war deterrent: Kim Jong-un
The law stipulated that DPRK could use nuclear weapons under these conditions: the imminent threat of an attack on DPRK by an enemy country using nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, an attack on the leadership and command of DPRK's nuclear forces, and an attack on the country's strategically vital facilities.
During a speech at Supreme People's Assembly, the Korean leader said that “the purpose of the United States is not only to remove our nuclear might itself but eventually forcing us to surrender or weaken our rights to self-defense through giving up our nukes so that they could collapse our government at any time."
No sanctions, he added, will force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
The Asian nation increased its missile testing to a record level in 2022, as Washington and Seoul continue their provocations represented by a myriad of factors, including their joint military drills in the region.
The United States and South Korea stated that they are carrying out discussions to advance their "joint nuclear planning and implementation, boost information sharing and launch tabletop exercises," the news site added, noting that the timing was not yet decided.
"We're planning to hold tabletop exercises in February between defence officials on operating means of extended deterrence under the scenario of North Korea's nuclear attacks," Lee said in a press conference.
Washington and Seol will hold for the first time separate TTX exercises in May.
According to the Defense Minister, the May exercises will be "far more concrete and substantive" for the country's policymakers than the planned ones in February.
On October 31, the US and South Korean militaries launched the largest ever military exercises, due to last for five days and with hundreds of warplanes bound to participate in 1,600 sorties in attack preparation courses 24 hours per day.
According to a US Air Force statement, Operation Vigilant Storm is the largest since 2017 intended to fend off alleged encroachments from DPRK's military.
The joint drills were condemned by DPRK as a "rehearsal for invasion and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul."
"The situation in the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity has entered the serious confrontation phase of power for power again due to the ceaseless and reckless military moves of the US and South Korea," DPRK's Foreign Ministry said regarding the drills.
"If the US continuously persists in the grave military provocations, the DPRK will take into account more powerful follow-up measures," the statement added.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was earlier briefed by the defense and foreign ministries regarding the New Year policy, which focused on measures to increase the country's capabilities in order to counter its Asian neighbor's "nuclear and missile threats."
President Yoon, who took office last May, has been pushing to increase confidence in the United State's extended deterrence (nuclear forces) and military abilities to deter threats against its allies.
Read more: South Korea: Pyongyang conducts first ballistic missile launch in 2023
The US is willing to "drastically expand" sharing of critical information with South Korea and to "reflect much more" of Seoul's approach regarding plans and execution methods, Lee noted.
"There is a shared need for it between the two sides, given that North Korea's nuclear threat has become serious not only to South Korea but also to the United States," he stressed.
For over 30 years, the United States has worked tirelessly to make the Democratic People's Republic of Korea an international pariah state - an integral component of their isolation strategies was the exerted pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its ongoing nuclear weapons program - however, what was more important was getting the country to drop its ballistic missile program. The US has failed in both.
Earlier in November, the military in Seoul reported that DPRK fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile that may have been able to reach the US mainland.
Steadily, the DPRK is becoming a major nuclear weapons power with a capable missile delivery system, and in two ways, Pyongyang's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test is a game-changer.
On January 1, DPRK leader Kim Jong Un asked for "exponential" growth in the country's nuclear arsenal, including the mass production of tactical nuclear weapons and the development of new missiles for nuclear counter-strikes in order to curb the US threat to his country's sovereignty.
According to the official KCNA news agency, Kim stated in a report issued at the end of a key party conference in Pyongyang that the country must "overwhelmingly boost up the military muscle" in 2023 in response to what it dubbed “US and South Korean hostility."
Kim accused Washington and Seoul of carrying out “a plot to isolate and stifle” Pyongyang, which is “unparalleled in human history," the report added.
The DPRK leader also ordered the development of a new type of ICBM “with a rapid nuclear counterattack capability as its basic mission," according to KCNA.
According to a report published by 19fortyfive in November, the US strategy will need to change.
"We no longer have that luxury," wrote the news website, referring to Washington's ability to continually support the South Korean military while getting a good night's sleep because the DPRK wouldn't be able to strike back.
In the first place, there will need to be a comprehensive dialogue with the DPRK to normalize diplomatic relations. Normalization must include a peace treaty that would put an end to the constant state of war on the Korean Peninsula.
The ordeal must be capped with the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, the report stressed.