Thursday, February 23, 2023
The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) conducted the 8th U.S-ROK Deterrence Strategy Committee Table-Top Exercise (DSC TTX), February 22, 2023 at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Following the TTX, the ROK and U.S. delegations visited the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, February 23, 2023.
During the 54th U.S.-ROK Security Consultative Meeting, November 3, 2022, the ROK Minister of National Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Defense pledged to conduct a DSC TTX annually. This TTX is the first to be conducted during the administration of ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Heo Taekeun, ROK Deputy Minister of Defense Policy, headed the ROK delegation and Dr. Siddharth Mohandas, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, and Richard C. Johnson, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Policy, headed the U.S. delegation as co-chairs.
ROK and U.S. defense officials, military officers, and diplomats participated in the TTX. Key personnel from the ROK included officials from the Ministry of National Defense (MND), Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Korea Defense Intelligence Agency (KDIA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The U.S. delegation included members from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), and the Department of State. The participants held in-depth discussions on various approaches to the Alliance’s deterrence and response posture in the face of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) evolving nuclear and missile capabilities.
Given the DPRK’s recent aggressive nuclear policy and advancements in nuclear capabilities, the TTX scenario focused on the possibility of the DPRK’s use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. and ROK 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. Both sides discussed various options to demonstrate the Alliance’s strong response capabilities and resolve to respond appropriately to any DPRK nuclear use.
The U.S. side highlighted that 2022 Nuclear Posture Review states that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its Allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime. Both sides affirmed that the Alliance stands ready to respond to the DPRK’s nuclear threats.
Participants highlighted that improvements in the ROK’s advanced conventional capabilities have strengthened deterrence. As such, the delegations discussed how best to leverage ROK non-nuclear capabilities to support nuclear deterrence against DPRK nuclear threats. Both sides concurred on the need to continue to strengthen extended deterrence, including through robust consultative mechanisms and crisis communication, as well as information-sharing, and joint planning and execution.
Both sides agreed that events such as the DSC TTX contribute to improving mutual understanding regarding the utilization and enhancement of Alliance capabilities. The delegations agreed on the importance of joint efforts to deter the DPRK’s nuclear use, and the crucial value in preparing potential response measures during armistice and reinforcing existing consultation mechanisms to execute those measures. The ROK and U.S. delegations agreed to report to the U.S.-Korea Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) and Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) on the outcome of discussions conducted during the DSC TTX. Additionally, both sides agreed to reflect the strategic approaches discussed during the DSC TTX in the ongoing revisions of the Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS) and to conduct follow-on TTXs involving political, military, and interagency participants in the near future to continue the joint planning and coordination process.
Following the DSC TTX, the U.S. and ROK delegations visited U.S. nuclear submarine training facilities located at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. Rear Admiral Thomas R. Buchanan, Commander of Submarine Group 10, explained the mission of Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBNs), and emphasized that SSBN forces operated by the U.S. are a key means of providing U.S. extended deterrence to Allies. The United States will continue to work with the ROK to ensure an effective mix of capabilities, concepts, deployments, exercises, and tailored options to deter and, if necessary, respond to coercion and aggression by the DPRK. The United States will continue to field flexible nuclear forces suited to deterring regional nuclear conflict, including the capability to forward deploy strategic bombers, dual-capable fighter aircraft, and nuclear weapons to the region.
The ROK and U.S. delegations highlighted that the joint site visit to an SSBN base, the first of its kind for the Alliance, is a positive demonstration of U.S. extended deterrence. The ROK and U.S. delegations emphasized that the 8th DSC TTX, conducted amidst continuing DPRK provocations, reaffirmed that U.S. commitments, including extended deterrence, to the ROK are ironclad and demonstrate strong Alliance coordination.
In light of the DPRK’s ongoing missile and nuclear development, the ROK and the United States will maintain close cooperation and continue a range of efforts to enhance extended deterrence.