In a show of resolve to underline the United States’ defense commitment to the Republic of Korea (ROK) amidst North Korean saber rattling, the United States Navy (USN) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) are conducting a series of naval exercises off the Korean peninsula from October 10 to 15, according to a USN press release.
The six-day joint exercise, dubbed Invincible Spirit, “will consist of a routine bilateral training, subject matter expert exchanges, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare drills, communication drills, air defense exercises, counter-mine planning and distinguished visitor embarkations,” the USN notes.
According to South Korean media reports, the exercise also involved long-range strike exercises against North Korea’s nuclear facilities, testing the concept of “Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation” (KMPR) and improving the strike capabilities of USN and ROKN ship-to-ground missiles.
KMPR is complementing existing ROK preemptive and defensive strategies. “According to the [Defense] Ministry, the KMPR is aimed at launching attacks on North Korean leadership if signs of their impending use of nuclear weapons are detected,” The Diplomat reported.
“The Invincible Spirit exercise has put a bigger focus on striking North Korea’s key nuclear and missile facilities. The change comes after the North’s fifth nuclear test last month,” an unnamed ROK defense official told Yonhap News agency.
In March, the United States and South Korea held a large-scale military exercise that involved the execution of the so-called OPLAN 5015, a classified war plan signed last year that includes surgical strikes against North Korea’s nuclear, missile and command and control facilities. This plan is part of KMPR.
OPLAN 5015 also calls for “decapitation” raids by Special Forces to neutralize North Korea’s senior leadership (See: “Largest Ever Korean Military Drill Focuses on Striking North Korea’s Leadership”).
This week’s naval exercise involves the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which includes nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, based in Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture and currently the USN’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific region, and six other ships.
“This exercise is yet another example of the strength and resolve of the combined U.S. and the ROK naval force,” said Rear Admiral Charles Williams, the commander of the Ronald Reagan CSG. “The U.S. and the Republic of Korea share one of the strongest alliances in the world, and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”