Joint military drills prove allied superiority

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Joint military drills prove allied superiority

This year’s joint exercise with U.S. forces demonstrated that the military might of the two allies could bring the North Korean command to its knees, a senior military official said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the 2016 Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), carried out between Aug. 22 and Sept. 2, and involving a simulated war game pitting Korea-U.S. joint forces against the North Korean military, was run with the Operation Plan (Oplan) 5015, which was first included in the UFG exercise last year.

Oplan 5015 calls for pre-emptive strikes against North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missiles facilities as well as its top leaders.

“At the early phase of the simulation war game,” said the official, “the two sides had a series of fierce battles. But as time went by, the allied forces were able to strike back and advance towards the north of Pyongyang and eventually annihilated the leadership in the capital.”

During the UFG, Korea and the U.S. militaries ran a simulated war game with the North Korean forces, which produced anticipated casualties on both sides. The specific figures are kept undisclosed.

Another military official said that this year’s simulation game differed from the Key Resolve Exercise held earlier this year, in which the allied forces stopped moving beyond the border city of Kaesong in a simulated drill. By comparison, the 2016 UFG simulation lasted until after the forces took Pyongyang.

Also this year there was a new route taken by the allied forces in order to break into the North, a defense ministry official noted.

In the past, the allied forces usually took the sea route in the Yellow Sea for an amphibious operation to then land in the North, since that route is closer to Pyongyang than a route through the East Sea.

“Using the Yellow Sea route was previously preferred because of its proximity to Pyongyang,” said the official, “But this year we tested the East Sea route to break into the North in an extraordinary manner.”

Experts say if a full-fledged conflict with the North prolongs, then a victory will tilt toward the allied forces. “Though North Korea has been advancing its weapons of mass destruction capabilities in recent years,” said Shin In-kyun, director of the think thank Korea Defense Network, “it cannot afford to maintain a prolonged warfare with the joint Korea-U.S. forces. In an event of such prolonged conflict, the allied forces will prevail.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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