U.S., ROK, and Japanese views considered in panel discussion on Sasakawa USA tabletop exercise

Anne Mark
April 2, 2018

On March 22, Sasakawa USA hosted a luncheon to present the publication of its newest report, “Testing Trilateral, U.S.-Japan, and U.S.-ROK Responses to North Korean Provocations.” The panel discussion focused on Exercise Pacific Trident, a three-day tabletop exercise (TTX) hosted by Sasakawa USA in February 2018. Introductory remarks were made by Ambassador Jim Zumwalt, CEO of Sasakawa USA. The panel included Admiral Dennis Blair (retired), Chairman of Sasakawa USA; Lt. General In-Bum Chun (ret.), Former Deputy Commander, First ROK Army; and Vice Admiral Masanori Yoshida (ret.), Vice President, International Security Affairs, Sojitz Corporation of America. Katrina Manson, Foreign Policy and Defense Correspondent, Financial Times, moderated the discussion.

In introductory remarks, Ambassador Zumwalt explained that the TTX’s goal was to test the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship, as well as the United States’ respective alliances with both Japan and the ROK. Following his introduction, Admiral Blair outlined the TTX’s two scenarios, and highlighted the key insights and recommendations from the American team. As a member of the Control Team, Admiral Blair played the role of the North Koreans. “I believe that the most important insight was that if North Korea’s adversaries react in an aggressive way, in a coordinated way to North Korean provocations, [North Korea] gains no military or political concessions from the other three countries and it comes out the loser on the tactical level,” he said. In addition to strong coordination between the three allies, Admiral Blair noted that the security legislation passed by Japan in 2015 allowed it to take a much more active role in handling provocations, and the United States needs to continue to transform the American command relationships in Northeast Asia.

Voicing the Japanese perspective of the TTX, Vice Admiral Yoshida focused on the importance of the 2015 changes to Japan’s national security system. “These transformations now enable us to respond seamlessly to any situation, from peacetime, gray zone, to war time.” Taking on a more active role allowed Japan to participate in intelligence sharing with both the United States and ROK. In applying lessons learned from the TTX to the real world, he added, “We must share trilaterally what has been accumulated through the bilateral relations (Japan-U.S. and U.S.-ROK) alliances, since during and post-Cold War.”

Representing the Korean team, Lt. General Chun outlined the positives and negatives the ROK team members faced. One particular challenge was that many Korean team members were unfamiliar with working trilaterally, and came to rely on the U.S. team to help communicate with the Japanese. Nonetheless, the team members all agreed that trilateral cooperation was very important and “it could be done,” Lt. General Chun said. Despite initial unease over the scenarios presented by the TTX, he said that the Korean team’s attitude slowly changed over the course of the exercise. “The moral for us was that this kind of TTX should and must continue. […] It is in our best interest to cooperate and that cooperation can be possible,” he said. “I think that is where the most value was gained by the Koreans.”


A full agenda from the event along with video coverage in Japanese and English can be found in EVENT: Testing Trilateral, U.S.-Japan, and U.S.-ROK Responses to North Korean Provocations: Tabletop Exercise Pacific Trident. You can also read more about Exercise Pacific Trident in “Testing Trilateral, U.S.-Japan, and U.S.-ROK Responses to North Korean Provocations.”



Photos by Joy Asico.

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