New drill planned to replace Ulchi Freedom

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New drill planned to replace Ulchi Freedom

South Korea plans to launch a new civilian-military exercise next week to better brace for various contingencies, the Defense and Interior Ministries said Friday, the latest in a series of reorganizations of defense drills to support peace efforts with North Korea.

The inaugural Ulchi Taegeuk exercise will take place from May 27-30 involving around 480,000 civilians, government officials and armed service members from about 4,000 government and related agencies, the ministries said.

Replacing the summertime South Korea-U.S. Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise, the new type of exercise will combine two existing programs - the Taegeuk command post exercise led by the South Korean military and the government’s Ulchi exercise, which was part of the UFG.

It is meant to “strengthen the country’s crisis management capabilities in dealing with various safety and security threats, including terrorist attacks and large-scale natural disasters, as well as to ensure a readiness posture,” the ministries noted.

Last year, Seoul and Washington announced the decision to temporarily suspend the UFG exercise, and the Seoul government said it would create a new one to support the peace-building efforts on the Korean Peninsula.

To facilitate diplomacy with Pyongyang, the allies also abolished their springtime Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises. Instead, they launched the new Dong Maeng command post exercise in March. Dong Maeng means alliance in English.

North Korea has long criticized the joint drills, calling them rehearsals for invasion, while Seoul and Washington have argued that their drills are defensive in nature.

The Ulchi exercise was created in the wake of North Korean commandos’ botched attempt in 1968 to infiltrate Seoul’s presidential office and assassinate President Park Chung Hee. It focused on various national crisis scenarios.

UFG dates back to 1976, when the Ulchi exercise was combined with the U.S-led UN Command’s Focus Lens exercise. It was initially called the Ulchi Focus Lens and renamed in 2008.

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