U.S., South begin annual military drill; North balks

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U.S., South begin annual military drill; North balks


President Lee Myung-bak, center, presides over a special cabinet meeting for the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise at the Blue House in Seoul yesterday. [Joint Press Corps]

South Korean and U.S. forces yesterday launched their annual joint exercise in their latest attempt to improve their defense posture against North Korea, military officials said.

The exercise, known as the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), launched in 1975 to enhance interoperability between the two forces and will continue until Aug. 26.

This year, the computer-aided exercise will mobilize some 56,000 South Korean troops and about 30,000 U.S. soldiers, including some 3,000 joining from the United States and other bases around the Pacific region, according to officials here.

The Combined Forces Command (CFC) said the total number of participants will be more than 530,000, with seven United Nations Command countries also involved - Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Norway and Denmark.


북한의 방사포 부대

The South and the United States will also simulate destroying North Korean weapons of mass destruction, officials said earlier this month.

“Through this drill, we will try to strengthen our readiness posture against threats by North Korea,” an official of Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

In a statement, the CFC said the UFG will look to improve the South Korean-U.S. alliance’s ability to defend the South “by exercising senior leaders’ decision-making capabilities and by training commanders and staffs from both nations in planning, command and control operations, intelligence, logistics, and personnel procedures.”

“It is challenging and realistic training focused on preparing, preventing and prevailing against the full range of current and future external threats to the Republic of Korea and the region,” Gen. James D. Thurman, CFC commander, was quoted as saying. “We are applying lessons learned out of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those garnered by the Alliance’s recent experiences with North Korean provocations on the peninsula and past exercises.”

The JCS official also said this year’s exercise will help South Korea prepare for the transfer of wartime operational command from Washington to Seoul in 2015 and alleviate concerns over a security vacuum.

According to the JCS, South Korea will conduct drills under a reformed command structure, under which chiefs of the Army and the Navy will exercise operational command.

Currently, the chairman of the JCS holds operational command in peace time. The Ministry of National Defense has proposed an altered structure so that the JCS chairman will delegate to the heads of each branch. If approved, the ministry’s idea will take effect in November next year.

North Korea has long balked at these joint maneuvers, claiming they amount to a prelude to war. Seoul and Washington, though, have countered that the UFG is defensive in nature.

Last Saturday, North Korea repeated its plea for the cancellation of the UFG. It argued that Seoul was intentionally trying to spoil the atmosphere of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula “in collusion with outside forces.”


한글 관련 기사 [온라인 중앙일보]

북, 한국에 "두고 볼 수만 없다" 도발천명…합참 예의주시

북한이 16일부터 시작된 을지프리덤가디언(UFG)연습에 대해 "그냥 보고만 있을 수 없다"고 주장했다. 이에 따라 북한이 또다시 도발을 감행하는 것이 아니냐는 추측이 나오고 있다.

북한 노동신문은 16일 "지금 조선반도 정세는 최악의 위기사태에 직면해 있다"며 "그 어떤 우발적인 요인에 의해서도 전면전쟁이 일어날 수 있다"고 주장했다. 그러면서 "우리의 혁명무력은 만반의 준비를 갖추고 있다"고 했다.

이 기사는 UFG 훈련에 참가한 미국을 비난하는데 대부분을 할애하고 있다. 노동신문은 "미 호전광들이 이라크에 파견되어 대량살상무기를 탐지 및 파괴하는 임무를 수행한 미 육군 제20지원사령부를 주축으로 한 합동기동부대를 편성해 우리의 핵시설 등을 '제거'하는 실전연습을 감행하고 있다"고 주장했다. 그러면서 "미국이 지금까지 작성발표한 계획에는 우리나라의 주요 지하시설들과 주요 대상물을 선제타격한다는 것 등이 명문화되어 있다"고 했다.

북한군 해군. 함선이 낡은데다 무기는 수동으로 조작된다노동신문은 특히 "미제가 방대한 무력을 동원해 우리의 자주권을 엄중히 위협하는데 대해 우리 군대와 인민은 그냥 보고만 있을 수 없다"고 위협했다.

노동신문은 이에 앞서 15일에도 5면과 6면에 걸쳐 UFG중지를 요청하는 기사를 실으며 "불을 즐기는 자는 제가 지른 불에 타죽기 마련"이라며 강도높게 합동훈련을 비난했다.

합동참모본부는 이와 관련 UFG 연습기간 중은 물론 훈련이 끝난 뒤 북한이 도발을 할 가능성이 높다고 북한군의 상황을 예의주시하고 있다.

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