SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young recently made a rare visit to a hidden bunker serving as a wartime command center amid an ongoing springtime combined military exercise with the United States, a source said Thursday.
Lee visited the "B-1 bunker" in Seoul on Wednesday with Defense Minister Suh Wook to encourage soldiers, the source said. The bunker, under the control of the Army's Capital Defense Command, serves as a command center for South Korean forces in the event of an armed conflict with North Korea.
Lee's visit comes as South Korea and the U.S. kicked off on Monday a computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) that involves a "minimum level of troops" given the coronavirus situation.
Lee has voiced hope for a "wise" and "flexible" solution to the issue to avoid escalating inter-Korean tensions.
In his interview with a local media outlet on Tuesday, Lee pointed out the need to keep the joint exercises to "a basic level at the least" for Seoul's efforts to retake wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from Washington but stressed that the exercises have been scaled-back and kept to a minimum.
Seoul and Washington usually carry out major combined exercises twice a year, in spring and summer, along with smaller-scale drills throughout the year.
Since 2019, major exercises have not included outdoor drills amid peace efforts with North Korea.
North Korea has long demanded an end to the joint military drills between the two allies, denouncing them as a rehearsal for invasion. The North has stayed mum on the ongoing exercise.
Under decade of Kim's rule, N. Korea makes strides in nuke, missile capabilities
How Kim Jong-un, once a young political novice, cemented power in N. Korea in 10 years
Talks for end-of-war declaration gather pace, but skepticism lingers
N. Korea's SLBM drive aimed at regime survival, military edge, negotiation leverage: analysts
N. Korea's suspension from Olympics augurs ill for Seoul's peace efforts