Joint South Korea-US military exercises to begin on April 1

Posted on : 2018-03-21 17:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The Foal Eagle/Key Resolve training will be on a reduced scale from previous years
F-16s from the Osan Air Force Base in Pyeongtaek
F-16s from the Osan Air Force Base in Pyeongtaek

On Mar. 20, South Korean and American military authorities officially announced that the joint military exercises that had been delayed because of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will begin on Apr. 1 and last for just over one month on a reduced timeline. This apparently expresses their determination to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula following the recent decision to hold inter-Korean and North Korea-US summits.

“We have decided to hold the Foal Eagle exercises for four weeks, beginning on Apr. 1, and the Key Resolve exercises for two weeks, beginning in mid-April,” said senior officials from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff and the ROK-US Combined Forces Command during a joint press conference on Mar. 20. Foal Eagle is a field training exercises that the South Korean and American militaries hold each spring, while Key Resolve is a command post exercise that is carried out through computer simulations.

When asked about the number of troops who would be participating in the exercises, the officials said, “From the US, there will be 11,500 troops participating in Foal Eagle and 12,200 troops participating in Key Resolve. That’s a similar scale to previous years.”

According to the officials, the Ssangyong, or Double Dragon, landing exercises that are held as part of Foal Eagle will take place between Mar. 1 and 8, involving one regiment from the South Korean military and one brigade from the US military. The regiment reportedly consists of a little over 2,000 soldiers, while the brigade is composed of between 4,000 and 5,000 troops.

Though Foal Eagle was originally supposed to last two months, from April to May, it was eventually decided to shorten it to the single month of April. And though US aircraft carriers have participated in previous exercises, including the USS John C. Stennis in 2016 and the USS Carl Vinson in 2017, apparently no aircraft carriers will be taking part this time.

Downscaling the exercises in this manner is apparently designed to communicate the US and South Korea’s willingness to adjust the scale of military activity in line with the recent movement toward dialogue on the Korean Peninsula. The explanation provided by a senior military official was that “South Korea and the US made this decision in consideration of the schedules of the participating troops.”

Officials also explained that the South Korean military was taking the lead in planning the exercises, running the opposition force and debriefing this year, just as it did last year, in order to improve its joint operational capabilities.

On the morning of Mar. 20, South Korean and American military officials had the UN Command’s Military Armistice Commission notify North Korea of the content and schedule of the exercises. “The duty officer with the UN Military Armistice Commission read the content of the exercises over a megaphone in front of the military demarcation line at Panmunjeom, and the North Korean troops made a recording of that,” said a senior military official.

By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer

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