The U.S. and South Korean navies began a massive combined exercise on Monday with the aim of thwarting North Korean aggression.

The Maritime Counter Special Operations Exercise (MCSOFEX) will last through Friday in the East Sea and the Yellow Sea, also known as the West Sea, local media reported.

The U.S. Navy is sending the U.S. 7th Fleet’s aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — the USS Stethem (DDG-63) and the USS Mustin (DDG-89). The U.S. vessels will train with South Korean warships and other defense assets, such as the Sejong the Great Aegis ship and P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft in the East Sea.

In addition, U.S. special forces — likely Navy SEALs — aboard a nuclear-powered submarine accompanying the Navy warships will conduct “decapitation” operations, which are aimed at taking out North Korean leaders like Kim Jong-un and senior officials surrounding him.

The exercises are designed to promote joint “communications, interoperability and partnership in the (U.S.) 7th Fleet area of operations,” the fleet said in a statement.

Analyst Comment: Without question, the most unnerving portion of these exercises for leader Kim is the decapitation exercise. No doubt he recalls the SEAL-led effort to penetrate into Pakistan and take out Osama bin Laden who had been secreted away in a fortified hideout near the country’s main military academic campus. 

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 3: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-North Korea war?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.