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Tabletop Exercise 2019: Security in Northeast Asia

Tabletop Exercise 2019: Security in Northeast Asia

Seth Cropsey & Jun Isomura

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A tabletop exercise (TTX) was held at Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. from June 25–27, 2019. The TTX was modeled on the Taiwan Strait crisis, which occurred in 1995–96.

The regional structure of Northeast Asia, including Taiwan, is very fragile. One reason is the presence of major military powers—the United States, China, and Russia—and major economic powers—the U.S., China, and Japan. Another is that China’s rapid economic development and military buildup in recent years, and new developments in North Korea, have contributed to instability. This TTX, unlike a military exercise, was not held to pursue the “best answer.” Its purpose was to command a bird’s-eye view of the current situation in Northeast Asia; to acknowledge each party’s positions, views, and differences; to confront the “issue without an answer”; and to learn each party’s challenges.

The participants represented five groups: Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the United States and China. The groups were made up mainly of retired flag and general officers from each country, and a China group composed of retired American military officers. The China group’s role was to act as a regional provocateur in order to challenge the other country teams, individually and collectively. The exercise consisted of multiple moves, each supposed to be taking place over a period lasting from about one to seven days. In each move, the parties first presented their issues in a plenary meeting. Afterwards, each party discussed its actions in a separate room before presenting them and receiving questions in a plenary meeting on the following move.

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