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S. Korea, U.S. to stage drill for WMD removal

South Korea and the U.S. will form a joint taskforce to practice detecting and eliminating North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction during the upcoming annual joint military exercise later this month, a government official said Sunday.

“The allies will form the joint taskforce and conduct virtual and actual drills during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian scheduled to take place from Aug. 16-29,” the official told local media, declining to be named.

Based on computer simulations, the allied forces will engage in drills to find the locations of hidden WMDs such as nuclear warheads, missiles and chemical and biological weapons, and then dispose of them.

The taskforce would be sent to a certain area where they would participate in the WMD elimination exercise.

The U.S. Army will send its 20th Support Command as part of the taskforce while the South Korean Army will dispatch its troops specializing in handling WMDs. Some 350 soldiers from the allied militaries are expected to join the WMD drills.

Since its establishment in October 2004, the 20th Support Command based in Maryland has carried out a series of WMD removal operations in many conflict zones including Iraq.

Some military observers have claimed that Seoul should prepare itself to conduct WMD elimination operations independently as it is taking steps to retake wartime operational control from the U.S. in December 2015.

“In case of an emergency on the peninsula, the troops from the U.S. 20th Support Command could come late or could not be deployed here for some unexpected reason. So, there appears to be the need for us to establish our own unit, possibly a brigade-level one,” one military official said on condition of anonymity.

According to South Korea’s defense white paper published last December, North Korea has 2,500-5,000 tons of chemical weapons, presumably stored throughout the country.

The North is also presumed to have obtained some 40 kilograms of plutonium after reprocessing spent fuel rods four times until 2009. The North has obtained the spent fuel rods through the operation of a five-mega-watt reactor since the 1980s.

The UFG is a command post exercise based on computer simulated war games, which demonstrates the two militaries’ Operation Plan 5027 centering on a scenario of an all-out war with the North.

By Song Sang-ho (