Members from U.S. and Republic of Korea militaries man the Hardened Theater Air Control Center, at Osan Air Base, ROK, during the first day of Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Aug. 17, 2015. (File Photo - US Air Force)
South Korea and the US have been discussing the resumption of yearslong suspended field training exercises in the second half of the year, the South Korean military said Monday.
The discussion has been underway as the South Korean and US military tentatively agree to conduct their annual combined military exercises between Aug. 22 and Sept. 1, according to military sources who wished to remain anonymous.
Regular Combined Command Post Training has been carried out based on a computer simulation without a field training exercise element in the wake of the first US-North Korea Singapore Summit in June 2018.
Large-scale, theater-level field training exercises such as the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian have been entirely suspended, in line with then-US President Donald Trump’s commitment at the summit. Instead, the South Korean and US military have conducted small-scale military exercises at battalion level and below throughout the four years.
But South Korea and the US have been “reviewing the resumption of field training exercises in light of various circumstances and conditions,” the South Korean military confirmed Monday without further details.
Both sides have been discussing the size and type of combined field training exercises. But the South Korean military sees limitations to conducting large-scale military drills as the resumption of drills requires a certain period of time.
Seoul and Washington also have been considering re-adding the word “Dongmaeng,” which means alliance in Korean, to the title of annual combined military drills, according to the South Korean military.
Computer simulation-based exercises were previously dubbed “Dongmaeng” in the first half of 2019. But the title has been changed into Combined Command Post Training in the aftermath of a strong backlash from North Korea.
The alliance move came after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and his US counterpart Joe Biden agreed to “initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula.“ The two leaders underscored the necessity to step up military drills against the “evolving threat” posed by North Korea during the May 21 summit.
South Korea and the US also plan to conduct an assessment of the South Korean military’s Full Operational Capability or FOC during the combined military drills this fall.
The FOC assessment is a required process to transfer wartime operational control to South Korea.
The FOC assessment is the second part of the three-phase system to evaluate the South Korean military’s capabilities to command the Future Combined Forces Command or F-CFC. But it has been postponed mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic after both sides completed the first stage in 2019.
The South Korean and US defense chiefs previously agreed on the schedule on the occasion of the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting held last December.