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The US Is Cutting Back The Exercise That Always Pisses Off North Korea
The U.S. and South Korea announced Tuesday that a toned-down version of annual joint military drills would begin April 1 amid a potentially monumental thaw in ties with nuclear-armed North Korea that could see the allies’ two leaders hold separate summits with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
The main Foal Eagle field exercise, which usually lasts two months, is scheduled to begin April 1 and last for a month, while the computer-simulated Key Resolve tabletop drills will be held for two weeks starting in mid-April, a South Korean military official was quoted as saying.
The joint drills had been postponed for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The large-scale exercises have long been a source of tension between the two Koreas, with Pyongyang condemning them as rehearsals for invasion.
It was unclear if the U.S. would dispatch B-1B heavy bombers, nuclear-powered submarines or aircraft carriers to the drills, but media reports citing a South Korean Defense Ministry official said that there are no immediate plans to do so. The United States has sent such assets during past drills when tensions ran high.
The Pentagon said in a short statement earlier that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, had agreed to go forward with the exercises “at a scale similar to that of previous years.”
It said North Korea’s military had been notified of the “defensive nature” of the drills.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said approximately 12,200 U.S. troops and 10,000 South Korean military personnel would participate in the Key Resolve exercise, while some 11,500 U.S. troops and 290,000 South Korean forces would join the Foal Eagle drills.
Previous years’ exercises also reportedly involved special forces training for so-called decapitation strikes aimed at eradicating the North’s leadership.
Asked if that training would continue, Logan refused comment.
“To avoid compromising exercise objectives, specifics regarding the exercise scenarios will not be discussed,” he said.
However, he stressed that the exercises are “defense-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation.”
Logan also said that the exercises “are not conducted in response to any DPRK provocations or the current political situation on the peninsula.” DPRK is the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
©2018 the Japan Times (Tokyo). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
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