South Korea and the United States could stage a joint military exercise as early as March that would practice taking out nuclear facilities in North Korea, South Korean officials said Tuesday, the Korea Times reported. North Korea claimed Wednesday to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, although the United States and nuclear experts have questioned the veracity of Pyongyang's statement.
South Korea said Thursday that it was discussing the deployment of U.S. weapons on the peninsula, and the U.S. flew a B-52 bomber alongside South Korean F-15 fighter jets and American F-16 jets Sunday as "a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defense of the American homeland," said Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, CNN reported.
The joint exercise would incorporate new counter-missile operations that are tailored to address the nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction North Korea says it possesses. In what's called the "4D Operational Concept," the allies would practice measures to "detect, defend, disrupt and destroy" nuclear, chemical and biological warheads, the Korea Times reported. If North Korea launched a missile, they would be able to detect it within a minute, pick a target and a counter-weapon within one to three minutes, and then strike.
"The allies need to formulate a plan to counter North Korean missile threats at any time," Park Hwee-rhak, dean of the Graduate School of Politics and Leadership at Kookmin University, told the Korea Times.
The joint exercise, called Key Resolve, has been scheduled for March. North Korea has carried out three nuclear tests in the past, although experts have doubted the size and strength of those weapons. Nevertheless, even if its nuclear capabilities are not as grand as the government claims, defense experts suggest that the recent tests indicate that the North continues to act on its ambitions to develop nuclear warheads to put on a ballistic missile.