Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant GuardStory by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009 This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults. The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said. “In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said. This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday. Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director. “A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault. Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added. Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage. “It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi. The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added. “You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said. Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents. Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.” “I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said. Training concluded Thursday.
Defanging Pakistan continues to be an avowed objective of hostile powers.
The threats to Pakistan’s nuclear programme originate from direct and indirect dimensions and can be a deadly combination of both too. The direct threats could manifest themselves in attempts to acquire physical possession or control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets by terrorists/militants from within its territorial boundaries or by external hostile forces. The indirect threats could largely emanate in the geopolitical realm aimed at neutralising or gaining operational command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets/programme through intrusive international regimes or by exploiting its inherent internal fissures and weaknesses.
The main direct threats to Pakistan’s nuclear assets/programme that stemmed internally were from well-known terrorist/militant groups. These have been largely neutralised and their capacity to threaten Pakistan’s vital national interests has been seriously decimated through the highly successful Ops Zarb e Azb and Rad ul Fassaad. Furthermore, extremely stringent security regimes and cordons have precluded hostile penetration of its nuclear programme. There is therefore no realistic prospect of terrorists/militants taking over Pakistan and its nuclear assets by default, as was outrageously propagated by some in the international community and media.
The possibility of terrorist/militant groups whisking away a nuclear warhead or fissile material for a dirty bomb by storming a storage site or by infiltrating the ranks of the security personnel has been long obviated through a very rigorous intelligence and security network. Pakistan’s nuclear assets/programme has advanced far beyond the level where it could either be destroyed through sustained strategic bombing campaigns/missile attacks or their command, control and custody taken over by airborne forces/troops of hostile powers. It is patently ludicrous, unrealistic, impractical, undoable. It would be an act of war and will evoke a very violent response from Pakistan that could envelop and incinerate the larger region and beyond.
It can therefore be reasonably surmised that direct actions by terrorist groups or hostile powers against Pakistan’s nuclear assets/programme are not very viable options.
The indirect threats however are more ominous. Hypothetically speaking, hostile powers could come together to launch an international effort through the UNSC to “secure the nuclear assets of a dangerous, politically unstable, economically insolvent Pakistan that lacks cohesion”. A malleable UNSC could be manipulated to pass the requisite resolution. Thereafter Pakistan could be required to place her nuclear assets/programme under an international committee/force for safe custody till its further disposal could be determined by the UNSC. At best, Pakistan could be offered a joint command and control arrangement and/or a nuclear umbrella. Failing which excruciating economic and military sanctions, diplomatic isolation and even military operations by an UN-sanctioned expeditionary force could be considered/enforced [a la the 2003 invasion of Iraq to “disarm it of (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction”!]. The votes of China and Russia in the UNSC however will be decisive.
In the worst-case scenario, hypothetically speaking, Pakistanis could be manipulated and deftly exploited to deal this deadly blow to themselves. The environment for such an exigency exists and is menacingly gaining ground. Over the years Pakistan has been maintained in a state of perpetual albeit controlled chaos; a situation further compounded through a corrupt body politic, political instability, rampant corruption, near economic insolvency, social disharmony, religious and sectarian strife, domestic and international terrorism, selective justice etc.
An incompetent, corrupt and pliable Government could thus easily be imposed upon a Pakistan in perpetual turmoil and “without cohesion”. This government could engender nationwide despair and despondency through inefficient governance, skyrocketing inflation, increased poverty levels, nepotism, favouritism, break-down of essential services and law and order etc. It could quickly reduce Pakistan’s economy to a basket-case status through its ineptitude and imprudent economic, political and foreign policies. With an economy tottering on implosion, it could have enough reason to enforce an economic emergency. This could create the rationale for squeezing out or drying up funds and resources for the Armed Forces, national intelligence agencies and all the sensitive strategic organisations amongst others.
The reduction in funds for the strategic organisations will in effect mean an indirect capping of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and other supporting entities. It will incrementally limit/end its further research and development activities, future acquisitions and technological advancements, fresh recruitments and expansion programmes, intelligence, safety and security capacities and so on.
Lack of funds will adversely affect the maintenance and sustenance of existing systems and capabilities which over time might become inoperational and lead to a reduction in their numbers. This will be akin to a rollback of the programme. Eventually, as the funds continue to dry up exponentially the nuclear programme could gradually but surely be brought to naught/elimination. That will ominously skew the regional strategic balance against Pakistan, fatally weakening its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
Pakistan must draw the right lessons from Ukraine’s strategic and almost fatal faux pas. The strategic environment around Pakistan is extremely volatile and hostile both at the bilateral and regional levels. It does not allow Pakistan to even consider any form of “denuclearisation”, either voluntary, through incompetence, international manipulation or coercion.
Pakistan must reject outright all fanciful measures like “joint command and control, nuclear umbrellas” etc. Pakistan must retain independent operational command, control and possession of its nuclear assets under all circumstances. Period.
To that end, it is imperative that it must stabilise itself internally, politically and economically. No void should be allowed to creep in between the Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan. The nation must put up a unified, united front in these times of political divide and disharmony, economic stress, internal fissures and external threats. It will be a test of our political leadership to steer the nation out of this quagmire and lead it to safety, progress and prosperity.
Pakistan must bear in mind that a potentially hostile regional environment might superimpose itself on the already simmering state of belligerence between India and Pakistan. It will need to be united and in complete command and control of all its conventional and strategic assets/capacities to not only deter war but to preserve peace and its own sovereignty and territorial integrity as well!
The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has reportedly held talks with aides to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, with the aim of reducing the risk that the war in Ukraine could spill over or escalate into a nuclear conflict.Z
The Wall Street Journal said the senior White House figure had held confidential conversations in recent months with the Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov and Russian security council secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, Sullivan’s counterpart, that were not made public.
Neither Washington or Moscow has confirmed if the talks took place and the report did not detail the time or dates of the phone calls.
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the report at his daily briefing. “Once again I repeat that there are some truthful reports, but for the most part there are reports that are pure speculation,” he told reporters.
In September, Russia started ratcheting up the idea that it may use nuclear weapons as it set the stage for the illegal annexation of parts of southern and eastern Ukraine, saying Ukrainian attacks on them would be considered a threat to Russia’s national security, which would be defended against using all available means.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington DC-based thinktank, noted last week that Russia had notably softened its nuclear rhetoric since early November.
Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement on 2 November about “the inadmissibility of a nuclear war in which there can be no winners” and said it was committed to reducing nuclear weapons. Putin went so far as to claim Russia had never discussed the possibility of using nuclear weapons.
Shortly before what the west called sham referendums in parts of Ukraine Russia had said it intended to annex, Putin claimed without evidence that the west had threaten to use nuclear weapons against Russia. “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” said Putin. “This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”
Throughout the war, the US has had the tricky task of supporting Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, while maintaining some distance to avoid giving cause for escalation. For this reason, the US and other key western allies of Ukraine, such as the UK, have ruled out putting boots on the ground or establishing a no-fly zone that could put Nato and Russian forces into direct conflict.
The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said in late October that it was important to keep channels of communication open with Russia to “manage escalation”, specifying his main concern was Russia’s nuclear rhetoric, but did not say if or how often such channels were being used.
“We’re going to continue to communicate that any type of use of a weapon of that sort, or even the talk of the use of a weapon of that sort, is dangerous and irresponsible,” said Austin.
Though nuclear tensions appear to have subsided for now, the ISW said Russia may return to nuclear brinkmanship again to prompt the west to pressure Ukraine into negotiating.
Russia is trying to regain the advantage in Ukraine after a series of retreats in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. So far, its strategy, it seems, is to disable Ukraine in the rear by cutting off its power supplies over winter, while using its newly mobilised troops to gain and regain ground on the frontlines.
A senior adviser to Ukraine’s president said on Monday that Kyiv had never refused to negotiate with Moscow, but restated it would not hold talks while Vladimir Putin was in power. “Ukraine has never refused to negotiate. Our negotiating position is known and open,” Mykhailo Podolyakwrote on Twitter, saying that Russia should first withdraw its troops from Ukraine. “Is Putin ready? Obviously not. Therefore, we are constructive in our assessment: we will talk with the next leader.”
On Monday, Peskov said Russia was open to talks but it was Ukraine that was refusing. Both Ukraine and the US, its main western ally, say Russia has yet to show it is serious about negotiations, pointing to Russia’s recent mobilisation drive, rerouting of its economy for the war effort, the illegal annexation of more Ukrainian territory and the accompanying nuclear rhetoric.
In his nightly address on Monday, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was vital to oblige Russia to participate in “genuine” peace talks, describing the country as a destabilising force on a range of issues, including climate change.
He decried “Russia’s destabilising influence” as the world confronted war, energy and food crises, and what he called the destruction of customary international relations. The climate agenda, he said, was “really suffering” but could not be “put on hold”.
“So anyone serious about the climate agenda must also be serious about the need to immediately stop Russian aggression, restore our territorial integrity, and force Russia into genuine peace negotiations,” Zelenskiy said.
Despite its struggle to make headway on the battlefield, Russia has had significant success in striking Ukraine’s energy sector thanks to Iranian-supplied drones, which are reportedly making up for its rapidly depleting stockpiles of missiles and rockets.
Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, has told residents to prepare for longer cuts and make arrangements to leave the city in the event of a total blackout.
Obtaining additional air defence systems and ammunition has become Kyiv’s number one priority in recent weeks. Last week, Germany sent an Iris-T system and on Monday, Ukraine’s minister of defence, Oleksiy Reznikov, welcomed Nasams and Aspide air defence systems, thanking Norway, Spain and the US.
The disturbances in this country throw up the question; what about the nuclear weapons?
“In reality, Pakistan is courting catastrophe and the day is not far when it will sink in the swampland which it has created for itself in the recent years, particularly 2022.” Representational ImageSource: Uzairmaqbool from Pixabay
This is given, but more striking question for the region is, can it remain immune to the virus of destabilisation that has hit Pakistan. No, is the emphatic answer.
The most serious concern is that with the turmoil; churning in Pakistan all around, what’s the safety of the nuclear weapons that it has. The command and control system of the nuclear assets is now open to many vulnerabilities.
The dissensions in the political system, threatening to pull the nuclear-nation apart, and military-political parties’ war of words, deepening uncertainties, make the things more difficult for the nation, and the region has a lot to worry about.
Pakistan had reacted sharply to the US President Joe Biden’s observations last month about Pakistan being one of the most dangerous nations in the world, where nuclear weapons were “without any cohesion.”
Islamabad condemned the remarks and asserted that it is well in control of its nuclear weapons. That was three weeks ago. Much has changed in Pakistan since October 15 when these remarks were made and reacted to.
Today, Pakistan is not in a position to repeat the same reaction because it is imploding. Its institutions are at loggerheads with one another. Their implosion can be catastrophic. The world needs to take note of it.
A look at the events in the past one week reveal that how Pakistan is at a crossroads.
There is a big dilemma in Pakistan of today, whether PTI chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is a culprit or victim. He is a culprit because he refuses to recognise importance of any of the individuals and institutions other than himself.
He believes, and no one can question what his self-beliefs are, that he is born to rule Pakistan. There is something divine in him, that’s what he trusts.
Guided by this belief, he has ruined all the institutions when he was the prime minister for four years from August 2018 to April 2022, his unpredictability has weakened Pakistan, as a state, both internally and externally.
He is a victim. He was injured in an attack in Wazirabad, near Gujranwala, on November 3. This, by all accounts an assassination attempt. First, because of the nature of the assault and the intent of the attacker. This attempt could have been fatal. Second, it is also clear that there was some kind of plot behind the whole thing.
It is unbelievable that a single man, in possession of deadly AK-47 can reach the rally spot and started firing at the PTI leaders, without any support from any quarter.
If it is to be trusted that this self-proclaimed would-be assassin was on a mission to “eliminate Imran Khan because the PTI leader’s rallies were blaring music at the time of the prayers,” supplementary explanations are missing.
Did he decide at the spur of the moment to get the weapons and shoot at Imran Khan, without any preparations having gone into it. This makes the whole thing more mysterious. Only a fair probe can bring the real things out in public. That is necessary for the political health of Pakistan.
The current turmoil in Pakistan doesn’t allow the kind of probe that the people expect in the assassination bid on Imran Khan, who by far is the most popular leader in the country at the moment.
Khan’s insistence to name Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal in the FIR, has already created hurdles for the police. Khan is sticking to his guns.
That’s part of his long-term political strategy to humiliate his opponents in politics and teach a lesson to establishment.
He holds the establishment responsible for his ouster from power in April this year, as part of the larger conspiracy that he has incessantly attributed to the United States and his political rivals, with a clear blessing of the establishment.
Now he has brought the matters to head after an attempt on his life, which, he is using for his political objectives.
As was expected, the establishment has made it clear that it would not allow any of its officers or soldiers to be named and prosecuted. The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public face of the armed forces in Pakistan has not only termed Imran’s allegations as “baseless” but also demanded legal action against Imran Khan.
There is a stalemate, and it will hurt Pakistan no end. In a country where millions are still reeling from the effects of the devastating floods, the boiling political rivalry cauldron is bound to make matters worse.
Or, there would be military intervention and Pakistan would be again under the military rule. The country has witnessed several such spasms, which have left it in a state of chaos. Now it is worse than the past situations. Today’s Pakistan is not in as much awe of the army, as it used to be decades ago.
The Military was seen as a stabilising force, but now, in the common perception of the masses, the army has lost its sheen. But that cannot stop military from doing what it might be thinking of doing in the national interest.
It will cite what is evident to all Pakistanis that politicians of all hues were incapable of running the country, and therefore a force that can help the nation to come out of this quagmire is a national necessity. The trueness of such a possibility cannot be undermined, as the people may think the army as lesser evil. Such move is not without pitfalls.
The people have known that the army has its own weaknesses, its penchant to rule the country, directly or behind the scene, is its original sin.
It took them few years to reconcile to accept the army and its boisterousness after the split of Pakistan in 1971- when east Pakistan got wiped out, and new nation Bangladesh appeared on the world map.
TEHRAN – In his recent speech, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has said that the United States is moving on the path of decline. Many independent pundits and experts acknowledge that.
“One of the things that – I’m saying this now, some other people across the world have apparently said it too – I believe that one of the signs of America’s decline is the election of people like the current and the former president,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with students. “A country of 300 million, 300 million-plus people almost destroys itself and elects a president in the previous term – somebody like Trump whom the world considers to be crazy and after he was defeated, a man like this current one comes to power, and well, you know the stories about him. This is evidence of the decline of a nation. This is evidence of the decline of a civilization. So, this was [matters] related to America.”
The fact that the United States is on the decline has been reiterated by many pundits and politicians, including inside the United States.
On Sunday, former President Donald Trump described the United States as “a country in decline” in a campaign speech in Western Pennsylvania. “If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, then on Tuesday you must vote Republican in a giant red wave,” he told supporters.
On the other hand, President Joe Biden is now warning that America is on the path to chaos. “As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America – for governor, for Congress, for attorney general, for secretary of state who won’t commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re in,” Biden said. “That is the path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful. And it is un-American.”
He also warned that democracy in America could not be taken for granted anymore.
“Nearly half of Americans fear their country will erupt within the next decade,” the Guardian reported, citing three American political scientists who warned of another civil war breaking out in America. “Look for the next civil war to take place after the 2024 election cycle, when the next wave of violence is likely to emerge. Similar to the original civil war, there’s too much at stake for both sides. Then, as now, the threats are existential,” Christopher Sebastian Parker, professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote for the Guardian. “America is rushing headlong into another civil war, and it’s a matter of when, not if.”
Barbara F Walter, an American political scientist, is of the opinion that America will continue to decline due a variety of factors. “America’s democracy declined rapidly between 2016 and 2020. Since 6 January 2021, the U.S. has failed to strengthen its democracy in any way, leaving it vulnerable to continued backsliding into the middle zone,” she said.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a message to the world that the country was determined to avenge the loss of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander in 2020. “We will never forget the martyrdom of Martyr [Qassem] Suleimani. They should know this. We have spoken about this and we are firm on it. It will happen at the proper time and in the right place, God willing,” he wrote.
In fact, the Suleimani message should not be read in this context at all. The Iranian capacity to “punch” – as Mr Khamenei puts it – has a character all of its own.
He has laid something bare that should serve as a wake-up call for governments, particularly in Europe, to take how Iran operates much more seriously. The evidence is that soft-pedalling on how Tehran builds its influence in foreign countries is a major weakness. The Iranian regime has enjoyed an open goal to menace and harass targets far beyond its borders.
The range of Iranian underground operations extends globally despite the country’s isolation and strained resources.
The Iranian capacity to ‘punch’ has a character all of its own
There have been large protests in Germany and other European countries to offer solidarity with the women-led demonstrations in Iran. Police have been forced to protect the marchers when hundreds-strong groups of men descended to beat and kick the peaceful protesters.
These displays of strength have occurred outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin. Witnesses described how several men, disguised by scarves across their faces, tore down flags and banners from a caravan parked outside and then clashed with police at the building.
For years, German domestic intelligence reports at the national and provincial level have provided an annual update on Iranian spying activity in the country. These described what the German interior ministry defines as a threat to the country’s government system, as well as a security and proliferation risk.
The reach of this network runs from an Iranian trade bank in Hamburg that facilitates Tehran’s payments to the advanced engineering technologies that are procured or stolen for dual-use equipment supplies. Just recently, Germany was one node in an assassination plot that saw an Iranian diplomat in Vienna run agents in the Netherlands and Belgium to carry out an attack in Paris.
Success in trying to crack these Iranian operations is coming in Sweden. The courts there recently convicted Hamid Noury, a prominent regime official. He was described by the court as “sadistic” having selected the prisoners to be brought before a “death commission” that oversaw notorious massacres in Iran in 1988. His arrest came after arriving in Sweden in 2019 to oversee Tehran’s community activities there.
Since then more arrests have been made, including a set of brothers who were double agents working for both the Swedish intelligence and Iran. They were described as the most senior moles exposed in Sweden in living memory. The slow burn of Tehran’s approach was underlined when the prosecutors said the Iranian-born brothers became Swedish citizens in 1994.
At around the same time in the US, there was a swoop carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on two different plots to kill former national security adviser John Bolton and Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad, who was a contributor to the US-funded Voice of America Persian.
The arraignment document in these cases includes chilling transcripts showing, among other details, how the Iranians worked to recruit and cultivate killers in America to carry out their attacks.
When Mr Khamenei says that Iran has not forgotten, it is already manifestly obvious from these transcripts what he means. The intent is laid out that Iran wants to orchestrate a strike to show it must not be crossed. The ability to set up a long-range operation is also obvious. The regime is not just offering words that could intimidate a non-committed state to appease it.
With the structures in place, it should not be discounted that the messages from Mr Khamenei will translate into action. But who will notice? Politicians in Germany called on the government to act to designate the IRGC a terrorist organisation last week before it was too late.
With Mr Khamenei’s orders now online, it would be remiss of governments around the world not to take much tougher action.
North Korea fired dozens of missiles and flew warplanes toward the sea last week
07 November,2022 03:25 pm
SEOUL (AP) — North Korea’s military said Monday its recent barrage of missile tests were practices to “mercilessly” strike key South Korean and U.S. targets such as air bases and operation command systems with a variety of missiles that likely included nuclear-capable weapons.
North Korea fired dozens of missiles and flew warplanes toward the sea last week — triggering evacuation alerts in some South Korean and Japanese areas — in protest of massive U.S.-South Korean air force drills that the North views as an invasion rehearsal.
“The recent corresponding military operations by the Korean People’s Army are a clear answer of (North Korea) that the more persistently the enemies’ provocative military moves continue, the more thoroughly and mercilessly the KPA will counter them,” the General Staff of North Korea’s military said in a statement carried by state media.
The North’s military said it also carried out an important test of a ballistic missile with a special functional warhead missioned with “paralyzing the operation command system of the enemy.” This could mean a simulation of electromagnetic pulse attacks, but some observers doubt whether North Korea has mastered key technologies to obtain such an attack capability.
The North’s military statement didn’t explicitly mention a reported launch Thursday of an intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at hitting the U.S. mainland, though its main newspaper published a photo of an ICBM-like missile as one of the weapons mobilized during last week’s testing activities.
Some experts say many other North Korean missiles launched last week were short-range nuclear-capable weapons that place key military targets in South Korea, including U.S. military bases there, within striking range.
On Saturday, the final day of the air force exercises, the United States flew two B-1B supersonic bombers over South Korea in a display of strength against North Korea, the aircraft’s first such flyover since December 2017.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the participation of the B-1Bs in the joint drills demonstrated the allies’ readiness to sternly respond to North Korean provocations and the U.S. commitment to defend its ally with the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear.
Both defense chiefs also agreed on the need to enhance combined exercises and training events to strengthen readiness against North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
Even before the “Vigilant Storm” drills, North Korea test-launched a slew of missiles in what it called simulated nuclear attacks on U.S. and South Korean targets in protests of its rivals’ other sets of military exercises that involved a U.S. aircraft for the first time in five years. In September, North Korea also adopted a new law authorizing the preemptive use of its nuclear weapons in a broad range of situations.
South Korean and U.S. officials have steadfastly maintained their drills are defensive in nature and that they have no intentions of invading the North.
U.S. and South Korean militaries have been expanding their regular military drills since the May inauguration of conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has promised to take a tougher stance on North Korean provocations. Some of the allies’ drills had been previously downsized or canceled to support now-stalled diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear program or to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
For months, South Korean and U.S. officials have said North Korea has completed preparations to conduct its first nuclear test in five years. On Monday, South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Youngse told lawmakers that North Korea could carry out the nuclear test at any time but there were still no signs that such a test explosion was imminent.