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ISN/WMDT Operation PABAL – Crisis Comms TTX
December 15, 2023

Seoul, December 15 – As part of a United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) partnership on counter-nuclear and radiological terrorism efforts, the two countries co-hosted the “Operation PABAL” workshop and tabletop exercise (TTX) from December 12 – 14, in Seoul, ROK. The three-day workshop strengthened participating nations’ public messaging capabilities in response to potential radiological terrorism incidents. The exercise name “PABAL” comes from a Korean information network used during the Joseon Dynasty in which individual messengers traveling either on foot or by horseback relayed documents and messages detailing critical national security information. The organizers designed this exercise to strengthen “new” messaging systems in ways PABAL did hundreds of years ago.

The ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, and the U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration, co-hosted the workshop that included 14 country delegations from Cambodia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, ROK, Thailand, Vietnam, the UK, and the United States, as well as the IAEA. Participants worked collaboratively to identify strategies for effective and timely communications with the public before, during, and after a radiological terrorism incident.

During her opening remarks, U.S. Embassy Seoul Deputy Chief of Mission Joy M. Sakurai said, “Terrorist use of a radiological dispersal device could cause serious panic, disruption, and contamination, so we must consider preventing this as a ‘no fail’ mission. These realities underscore the necessity for likeminded nations to come together, including through fora such as Operation PABAL, to identify and socialize impactful solutions to address these threats and their impacts.” Additionally, the ROK Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs KWEON Ki-hwan stated during the opening, “The goal of this workshop is to strengthen public messaging capabilities in the event of radiological terrorism attack. Recently, we are facing new possible challenges such

as Al-generated misinformation and disinformation, that can make our task more complicated and difficult. Given these challenges, the need to prepare for effective public communications has become more important than ever – we should be ready to deal with everything, everywhere, all at once.”

The workshop showcased both organizing countries’ commitment to enhancing both interagency and international cooperation to counter nuclear and radiological terrorism, further exemplifying how the longstanding U.S.-ROK alliance can deliver tangible results for both countries, as well as friends, allies, and partners in the broader Asia-Pacific region.