AntiWar.com & Agence France-Presse – 2018-11-22 23:39:09
US, South Korea to Scale Back Spring Exercises
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 21, 2018) — Though officials had previously been threatening a return to large-scale military exercises in South Korea, the Pentagon has once again agreed with South Korea to dramatically scale back a major exercise, in this case the spring 2019 wargames.
This is Foal Eagle, which is usually one of the major Korea wargames for the US, and usually a big source of tensions with North Korea. According to Defense Secretary James Mattis it will be scaled back enough that it won’t threaten ongoing diplomacy.
This may prove controversial, as Gen. Robert Abrams had recently told the Senate that the reduction in wargames was degrading the readiness of US military forces inside South Korea. Between that and some not being on board for North Korea diplomacy in general, this may see some resistance.
It’s unclear how the US and South Korea decided to scale this particular exercise back, though usually such actions have come at the behest of South Korea, who both has more to lose from foiling diplomacy, and has made side deals with the north to prevent any incidents fueling tensions.
Euronews (April 30, 2013)
US and South Korea Scale Back
Major Military Exercise to Aid Nuclear Talks
WASHINGTON (November 21, 2018) — The United States and South Korea have scaled down a joint military exercise scheduled for the spring of 2019 to facilitate nuclear talks with North Korea, Jim Mattis, the US defense secretary, said on Wednesday.
“Foal Eagle is being reorganized a bit to keep it at a level that will not be harmful to diplomacy,” Mattis said, adding that it would be “reduced in scope”.
US and South Korean forces have been training together for years, and routinely rehearse everything from beach landings to an invasion from the North and even “decapitation” strikes targeting the North Korean regime. But personal insults and threats of war between Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, were replaced last year by a rapid diplomatic rapprochement.
The thaw culminated in a historic summit in Singapore in June, where the leaders signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearization of the peninsula.The US and South Korea have since suspended most of their major joint exercises, including the Ulchi Freedom Guardian in August and the Vigilant Ace air force training initially slated for next month.
In September, the then nominee to head US and UN forces in South Korea said the pause in drills had been a “prudent risk” to help facilitate a detente on the peninsula.
But there “was certainly a degradation in the readiness of the force, for the combined forces”, Gen Robert Abrams told the Senate armed services committee at his confirmation hearing.
Abrams went on to say that the continued suspension of the drills risked a further erosion in “readiness and capability and interoperability of the combined forces”, though he noted officials were working to minimize issues by running smaller-scale staff exercises.
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