U.S. will command military exerciseAmericans will take back control of the massive annual U.S.-Korea military exercise this summer in response to North Korea’s recent hostility, a senior military official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.
“At the Ulji Freedom Guardian drill in mid-August, we will explore the likely scenarios of North Korean provocations and evaluate the U.S. and South Korean troops’ abilities to deter an attack,” said the source. “To this end, the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command will take control, a change of plans because the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff had initially been arranged to lead the drill.”
For years, Americans led the exercises, but in 2008, Korean commanders took control. The decision this year comes at a time when the government is considering delaying an agreement for the U.S. to give Korea wartime control of its forces in 2012.
According to the source, the change was made at the request of the top U.S. commander. “Earlier this month, General Walter Sharp, the commander of the U.S.-Korea Combined Forces Command and the U.S. Forces Korea, proposed the change to General Lee Sang-ui, chairman of Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the official said. “Taking into account the latest situation on the Korean Peninsula, including the North’s torpedo attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan, the joint exercise will evaluate the possibilities of various North Korean provocations.”
Another official confirmed that the drill will focus on deterring a North Korean provocation.
“During the first period of the exercise, which will begin on Aug. 16, we will evaluate the U.S. and South Korean militaries’ abilities to counter North Korean asymmetrical warfare capabilities, such as special warfare units, ballistic missiles, cyber warfare and chemical weapons,” the official said. “And the second part of the drill will portray a scenario in which the U.S.-South Korea forces clear off the North Korean troops and move up to North Korean territory.”
The Ulji Freedom Guardian is the world’s largest computerized command and control exercise. In the past, the two-week-long exercise was controlled by the commander of the U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command, but since 2008 South Korea has taken control in preparation for Korea’s receiving wartime control of its military.
In 2007, the two countries agreed that the wartime operational control of South Korean troops will be transferred from Washington to Seoul on April 12, 2012. Some in the South Korean and U.S. governments have said the transfer should be delayed because of North Korea’s increasing hostility.
Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was scheduled to arrive in Seoul last night to meet with Korean officials to discuss pending security issues.
By Kim Min-seok, Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]