Yonhap News Agency:
SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — The United States plans to hold a high-level military forum this week to explore ways to better respond to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction amid their growing security threats to the world, officials said Tuesday.
The Korea Senior Seminar (KSS) “will take place at the U.S. Special Operations Command Wargame Center in Tampa, Florida, tonight (U.S. time) on how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” a military officer here said, requesting anonymity.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti in charge of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) will lead the meeting, he said, confirming an earlier report on the issue carried by the American media website, the Washington Free Beacon.
While declining to offer specifics, the USFK said in a brief release that the KSS “includes consideration of the challenge presented by North Korean weapons of mass destruction, as well as how we may potentially enhance our support to the Republic of Korea’s role in maintaining regional stability.” The Republic of Korea refers to South Korea.
Noting that the dialogue is an important step to ensuring interagency coordination and engagement, the seminar “brings together key leaders from across the U.S. government to consider how we can proactively support enhancing stability on the Korean Peninsula,” it said without further elaboration.
This year’s seminar is the second of its kind, with the previous session taking place in June 2013, another military officer here said, adding that South Korean military figures would not attend the session.
The seminar is to take place at a time when the international community is witnessing evolving security threats posed by North Korea.
The belligerent regime has pursued nuclear weapons development for decades, and is believed to have reached a “significant” point in efforts to mastering the warhead miniaturization technology.
Pyongyang carried out underground detonation tests three times in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and has built a facility to enrich uranium, which gives it a second way of building nuclear bombs in addition to its plutonium program.
The North is also believed to have built a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the KN-08, which has a 6,000-mile range. Last year, it carried out engine tests for the ICBM, according to officials and analysts.
During his lecture at the South Korean Army Association in November last year, the USFK commander said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “has focused his military’s development on training on asymmetric capabilities.”
Asymmetric capabilities include nuclear arms and cyber-capabilities that cannot easily be countered with conventional weapons. Amid its international isolation that has damaged its economy, North Korea has pushed to raise those capabilities
Expressing concern over “very little warning of an unprovoked asymmetric attack which could start a cycle of action and counter-action, leading to an escalation,” the commander stressed the need for the allies “to maintain a high level of readiness and vigilance.”