Washington dispatches medical supplies to USFK

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Washington dispatches medical supplies to USFK

The U.S. Department of Defense dispatched medical personnel and equipment to support the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, on Tuesday.

In a press briefing at the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Milley stressed the global response to the coronavirus had no impact on U.S. supply lines across the world, and that Washington was able to send protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns to Korea.

“With respect to the protective gear […] and test kits that are being distributed, we are pushing some of that forward with the priority of distribution going to the peninsula in Korea,” Milley said.

While underscoring that the Defense Department remains “equipped for all scenarios,” Esper said that the Pentagon was also conducting virus testing on USFK troops “given the numbers [of infections in Korea].”

So far up to Friday, a total of four people related to the USFK have been infected, including a 23-year-old soldier who tested positive on Feb. 25 and his wife, who also tested positive on Saturday. The USFK’s public affairs office said the soldier apparently visited Camp Walker, the U.S. garrison in Daegu, and Camp Carroll in nearby Waegwan, North Gyeongsang.

On Feb. 25, the USFK raised the virus risk level to “high” across the peninsula after a 61-year-old female USFK dependent living in Daegu tested positive for the virus. A Korean employee of the USFK who works at Camp Carroll also tested positive on Friday.

Access to bases in Korea was being restricted, Milley noted, with service members on those bases “restricted in terms of their travel” in line with safety precautions.

According to the Voice of America, USFK Commander Gen. Robert Abrams visited U.S. bases in Daegu and North Gyeongsang to review response guidelines to the virus outbreak, which has largely been concentrated in those two regions.

Milley further acknowledged that the virus had a “very, very minimal” impact on U.S. military operations worldwide, noting that a combined command post exercise with Korea had been postponed on the request of Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki.

“We’re taking a look at some other exercises to see if they need to be modified or changed,” he added.

On Friday, Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense announced the allies reached a decision to postpone their annual combined military drill as a result of the Korean government’s elevation of its official alert level for the coronavirus to “red,” the highest in its four-tier system.

While the decision on the drill was framed as a “postponement,” military officials in Seoul said the announcement effectively meant the exercise has been canceled for this year.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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