U.S. and South Korean forces will conduct annual joint military exercises from August 20th to the 31st, according to a statement issued by the Combined Forces Command (CFC) today. The exercises follow just two months after ones held at the end of June, at the time generating protests from the North Korean authorities, which denounced them as a “reckless provocation.”
The August exercises known as ‘Ulchi Freedom Guardian’, will include South Korean and U.S. troops alongside soldiers from seven other UN states; Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and France.
Revealing the news, Gen. James Thurman, who commands CFC, emphasized the use of the exercise as defensive practice, countering North Korea’s claims that they are done in preparation for invasion of the North.
“’Ulchi Freedom Guardian’ is a key exercise to strengthen the readiness of Republic of Korea and U.S. forces,” Thurman said, adding, “It is based on realistic scenarios and enables us to train on our essential tasks with a ‘whole of government’ approach.”
The U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission has informed Pyongyang of the dates of the exercise, stressing that the drill was intended to be “non-provocative.”
“Training exercises like Ulchi freedom Guardian are carried out in the spirit of the October 1st, 1953, ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty and in accordance with the armistice,” the CFC statement also pointed out, adding, “These exercises also highlight the longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help to ensure peace and security on the peninsula, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Northeast Asia region.”