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American troops train to find, neutralize WMDs in Japan

By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 26, 2018

YOKOSUKA, Japan — U.S. servicemembers joined multinational drills Wednesday aimed at identifying and neutralizing radioactive threats.

The onshore training wrapped up a three-day Pacific Shield exercise that included sea drills geared toward intercepting illicit cargo that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction.

It’s the fifth-annual training event for the 17 countries belonging the Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to halt the spread of WMDs, missiles and materials or equipment that could be used to build such weaponry.

The drills were a taste of what should happen during an onshore investigation of a suspicious vessel.

Japanese police, customs and coast guard personnel showed off some high-tech search equipment to representatives from countries such as Australia, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Canada.

They used X-ray trucks to scan a container before dispatching counterterrorism experts to remove a dangerous chemical.

A team from the U.S., Thai and Philippine militaries swept for radiation and identified and neutralized “a radioactive threat,” according to U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Kevin Peters of Maritime Security Response Team West.

“For the safety of the public, any radioactive illicit substances must be interdicted as soon as possible,” he said.

The drill demonstrated a way to identify WMD materials without expensive gear.

An agent equipped with a pocket-sized “personal radiation detector” was able to identify a threat, move to a safe location and call for backup before a hazardous materials team removed the suspicious substance.

“Equipment does not equal capability,” a narrator told observers.

Romina Rocha of the Australian Border Force said the training prepares nations to work together.

“If an intervention is to occur at the high seas, time is very critical because the location of the ship is important to where the ship will be diverted [to be investigated],” Rocha said. “Countries will have different capabilities, so it just shows what we can achieve if we share information in a timely manner.”

doornbos.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

 

Forces from Japan, the United States, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines prepare for a Pacific Shield drill at Port of Kurihama, Japan, Thursday, July 26, 2018.
ALLEN ONSTOTT/STARS AND STRIPES

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