Gen. Robert Abrams, the top commander of the combined forces here, said the recent launches of short-range missiles by North Korea were part of routine military exercises and that the security situation on the Korean Peninsula has not changed.
During a symposium in Honolulu on Wednesday, Abrams said joint military exercises between South Korea and the US were suspended in consideration of diplomatic efforts made by the two governments with North Korea. Abrams serves as the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and US Forces Korea.
Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and US Forces Korea, speaks at LANPAC symposium held in Honolulu on Tuesday. (Screen captured from US Department of Defense website)
“My own perspective is that militaries around the world conduct routine military activities that include training of their specific capabilities, and we ought to just leave it at that,” Abrams said during the Land Forces Pacific Symposium, when asked about North Korea’s missile launches.
“I can tell you this, recent activities on the peninsula by the DPRK have not changed the palpable reduction intention on the peninsula and the door for diplomacy remains open.”
North Korea fired projectiles into the East Sea on two separate occasions, on May 4 and 9. It claimed the earlier launch was part of a “regular strike drill” and it had tested a new “tactical guided weapon.”
The South Korean government confirmed the projectiles fired on May 9 were two short-range missiles, but stopped short of identifying whether they were ballistic or cruise missiles.
Meanwhile, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday that Abrams’ evaluation appears to be the stance of the commander, adding that it is inappropriate for the ministry to comment on the commander’s opinion.
Regarding the decision to suspend some military exercises in South Korea last year, Abrams said this was neither a concession to North Korea nor a diminishment of training or readiness for the two allies.
“Following those suspensions, we have worked to evolve our exercise design and execution by turning four dials, size, scope, volume and timing, bringing us into harmony with ongoing diplomatic efforts,” he said.
“The result is the alliance decision to conclude our series of legacy exercises and the alliance decision to develop new activities that are better suited to our current operational environment.”
Still, he stressed that combined training and readiness “has not been slowed down one bit,” adding that more than 100 exercises have already taken place in 2019, though both allies are not as vocal about them as before.
Abrams also called South Korea an exemplary ally when it comes to fielding and resourcing a “highly capable, disciplined and ready” posture for self-defense and for its contributions to regional security.
The Land Forces Pacific symposium was sponsored by the Association of the United States Army in Honolulu. It took place from Monday to Thursday.
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com