US Commandos Set to Counter North Korean Nuclear Sites

U.S. special operations forces are set to conduct operations against North Korean nuclear, missile, and other weapons of mass destruction sites in any future conflict, the commander of Special Operations Command told Congress Tuesday. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas stated in testimony to a House subcommittee that Army, Navy, and Air Force commandos are based both permanently and in rotations on the Korean peninsula in case conflict breaks out. The special operations training and preparation is a warfighting priority, Thomas said in prepared testimony. There are currently around 8,000 special operations troops deployed in more than 80 countries. “We are actively pursuing a training path to ensure readiness for the entire range of contingency operations in which [special operations forces], to include our exquisite [countering weapons of mass destruction] capabilities, may play a critical role,” he told the subcommittee on emerging threats. “We are looking comprehensively at our force structure and capabilities on the peninsula and across the region to maximize our support to U.S. [Pacific Command] and [U.S. Forces Korea]. This is my warfighting priority for planning and support.” Disclosure of the commander’s comments comes as tensions remain high on the peninsula. President Trump has vowed to deal harshly with North Korea should another underground nuclear test be carried out. Test preparations have been identified in recent weeks, U.S. officials have said. Trump said on Sunday that China appears to be pressuring North Korea but that he would be upset if North Korea carries out another nuclear test. “If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy,” he said on CBS Face the Nation. Asked if his unhappiness would translate into a U.S. military response, Trump said: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.” Gen. Thomas’ testimony did not include details of what missions the commandos would carry out. A spokesman for the Special Operations Command referred questions about potential operations in Korea to the Pacific Command. Special forces troops would be responsible for locating and destroying North Korean nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, such as mobile missiles. They also would seek to prevent the movement of the weapons out of the country during a conflict. Additionally, special operations commandos could be used for operations to kill North Korean leaders, such as supreme leader Kim Jong Un and other senior regime figures. Special operations missions are said by military experts to include intelligence gathering on the location of nuclear and chemical weapons sites for targeting by bombers. They also are likely to include direct action assaults on facilities to sabotage the weapons, or to prevent the weapons from being stolen, or set off at the sites by the North Koreans. A defense official said U.S. commandos in the past have trained for covert operations against several types of nuclear facilities, including reactors and research centers. Scale models of some North Korean weapons facilities have been built in the United States for practice operations by commandos. The most secret direct action operations would be carried out by special units, such as the Navy’s Seal Team Six or the Army’s Delta Force.

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