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Multidomain Teak Knife unites special operations forces in South Korea


The Teak Knife exercise brought together Republic of Korea (ROK) and United States forces in February and March 2023 to ensure defense preparedness and reinforce the allies’ security guarantee.

“It is training that ensures combat readiness for special operations forces no matter the environment, while also strengthening the ironclad commitment between the United States and the Republic of Korea,” Capt. Kimberly Chatto of Special Operations Command Korea (SOCKOR) told the Yonhap News Agency.

The drills in South Korea included using aircraft for precision strikes, according to the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff. SOCKOR said Teak Knife’s key priority is to allow special operations forces to stage “challenging, realistic, multidomain training,” The Korea Herald newspaper reported.

At a South Korean air base where troops deployed for Teak Knife, Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs, called for improving interoperability between the allies and “harnessing the capability to strike the enemy’s critical facilities without fail.”

ROK and U.S. forces have staged Teak Knife since the 1990s, and the 2023 iteration incorporated the AC-130J Ghostrider, a long-endurance transport aircraft that was deployed to the Korean Peninsula for the first time, Chatto told Yonhap. The aircraft was used in drills to strike targets with air-to-ground missiles and guided weapons, according to the ROK Joint Chiefs. The AC-130J flew to South Korea from Hurlburt Field in Florida to join an MC-130J special operations tanker aircraft based at Kadena Air Base in Japan. Both trained alongside strike aircraft stationed in South Korea. (Pictured: ROK Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, third from right, meets ROK and U.S. special operations forces aboard an AC-130J aircraft in February 2023.)

“Having this aircraft come from the United States gives us opportunities throughout the exercise to support extended deterrence and what special operations aircraft is able to provide throughout different training scenarios with both U.S. and ROK special operations forces,” Chatto said.

Extended deterrence refers to the U.S. commitment to defend its allies with the full range of its military capabilities. “You keep strengthening deterrence and you do it with a sense of confidence, and you do it in a way that signals that the cost of aggression would be higher than your adversaries can bear,” Ely Ratner, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said during an early March 2023 forum in Washington, D.C.

Teak Knife took place amid North Korea’s growing provocations and nuclear threats. Pyongyang continues to violate United Nations bans on its missile development with an onslaught of test fires in 2022 and early 2023 and its pledges to arm the missiles with nuclear warheads. Kim Yo Jong, a top regime official and the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, threatened in February 2023 that the North could use the Pacific Ocean as a “firing range” in response to ROK-U.S. military drills.

Those threats won’t diminish the focus on allied readiness, Ratner said. Earlier in 2023, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pledged that Washington would increase deployment of advanced weapons to the Korean Peninsula and expand joint defensive training with the South.


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