AntiWar.com & Reuters & USA Today – 2017-08-20 00:02:10
Over 20,000 Foreign Troops to
Participate in Annual Exercise
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 18, 2017) â€“ Various annually scheduled US wargames in and around the Korean Peninsula almost always provoke an increase in tension for their duration. The upcoming Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise is particularly ill-timed on that front, coming amid dangerously high tensions already.
The exercise, which begins Monday, will last 10 days, and involve 20,500 foreign troops in a simulated defense of South Korea from an invasion by North Korea. The exercise is the largest annual computerized command-and-control operation in the world. North Korea has termed the decision to hold the exercise a “catastrophe.”
17,500 US soldiers will participate, along with troops from Australia, New Zealand, multiple NATO member nations, and Colombia. US officials say the exercise is designed to “increase readiness,” though again this comes after weeks of claiming that US troops were already ready for war with North Korea at a moment’s notice.
US officials have rightly noted that the exercise was planned and announced far in advance, but that still doesn’t change the fact that right now it’s going to be seen as a huge provocation, and is likely to provoke another North Korean response, putting the two sides back on a course for war after a few days of relative calm.
US, South Korea to Conduct
Joint Exercise August 21-31: Pentagon
WASHINGTON (August 18, 2017 – The United States and South Korea will start a joint exercise called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) on Aug. 21 lasting through Aug. 31, the Pentagon said on Friday, as tensions had escalated over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons program.
The statement said about 17,500 US service members would join in the exercise in addition to troops from Australia, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Britain.
“UFG is computer simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula,” the statement said.
North Korea Calls Planned US-South Korea Military Exercise a ‘Catastrophe’
Jim Michaels /USA TODAY
(August 18, 2017) — North Korea’s official media sharply criticized South Korea and the United States for pressing ahead with joint military exercises next week amid heightened tensions on the peninsula.
North Korea has long criticized the annual military exercises the US conducts with South Korea, regarding them as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North.
North’s Korea’s Central News Agency said the joint exercises. would “further drive the situation on the Korean Peninsula into a catastrophe,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The US-South Korean exercise, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, will involve about 17,500 US servicemen, including 3,000 from outside South Korea, the Pentagon said. The exercise runs between Aug. 21-31.
The exercise is “a regularly scheduled, annual exercise and is the culmination of many months of planning,” Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement earlier this week.
The comments from North Korea come amid heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, which has pressed ahead with a nuclear weapons program despite international condemnation.
North Korea had threatened to fire a missile into the waters off Guam, a US territory that holds two major US military bases. It later said it would postpone the missile launch, pending US actions.
But the threats triggered a stern warning from Washington.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday the US military would be prepared to intercept any missile heading toward the US territory or that of its allies.
“In the event of a missile launch towards the territory of Japan, Guam, United States, Korea, we would take immediate, specific actions to take it down,” Mattis said.
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