U.S. special operations forces are training for possible covert operations to locate and destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, the spec-ops commander told Congress on May 2.
“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,” Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas said in prepared testimony to a House subcommittee.
A defense official said U.S. commandos have trained for operations against several types of nuclear facilities, including reactors and research centers, according to a May 3 report by the Washington Free Beacon.
Thomas said that Army, Navy, and Air Force commandos are based both permanently and in rotations on the Korean peninsula in case conflict breaks out.
The last rotation of special operations forces to South Korea took place in February when parts of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the 75th Ranger Regiment joined South Korean troops for training.
Scale models of some North Korean weapons facilities have been built in the United States for practice operations by commandos, the report by Bill Gertz said.
There are currently around 8,000 special operations troops deployed in more than 80 countries.
Special operations forces also would seek to prevent the movement of weapons out of North Korea during a conflict, the report said. 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.
“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,” Thomas told the House subcommittee.
North Korea is believed to have around 20 nuclear devices and is developing nuclear warheads small enough to be carried on long-range missiles. It also has stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological warfare agents.
Many of North Korea’s nuclear facilities are believed to be located underground in fortified locations spread around the country.