South Korean, US defense chiefs agree to step up measures to counter nuclear threats from Pyongyang

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Seoul, July 31 (IANS) The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States have agreed to step up political and military measures to bolster preparedness for evolving North Korean nuclear and missile threats, an official said on Sunday.

During their talks in Washington on Friday, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, decided to relaunch the high-level meeting of the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) as soon as possible. ) allies and strengthen the Table Top Exercise (TTX), Yonhap News Agency quoted the official as saying.

Seoul and Washington have sought to resume the EDSCG, a gathering of allied vice defense ministers and diplomats, which was suspended in 2018 as part of joint efforts to promote diplomacy with Pyongyang.

The EDSCG is a key political dialogue that Seoul relies on to bolster the credibility of America’s extended deterrence – its declared commitment to mobilize a full range of its military capabilities, including its nuclear options, to defend its Asian ally.

Scheduled to resume in September, the rally itself should send a deterrent message to the North, observers stressed.

Along with policy coordination, the two countries are also seeking to step up their military training.

TTX is an exercise to practice possible Allied responses to hypothetical nuclear scenarios, such as the North’s nuclear blackmail, its imminent nuclear use, and the actual use of nuclear weapons.

“TTX aims to achieve optimal allied responses in the event of nuclear use by the North,” the official told reporters.

“The strengthening of TTX is consistent with efforts to bolster the credibility of extended deterrence.”

During talks last week, Lee and Austin also agreed to conduct this year’s combined summer training based on the concept of an “all-out” war, the official said, an indication of the scale training scheduled from August 22 to September 1.

The training, newly named “Ulchi Freedom Shield”, involves command post training based on computer simulation, field maneuvers and Ulchi civil emergency drills – a make-up amounting to a revival of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills ( UFG).

The UFG was abolished in 2018 under the liberal administration of Moon Jae-in, as it remained keen to facilitate diplomacy with the North, which called the exercise a war rehearsal.

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