© Reuters. South Korean soldiers take part in counter-terrorism drills as part of the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise at a subway station in Incheon, South Korea, August 24, 2022. REUTERS / Heo Ran
By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean general has commanded annual joint drills with U.S. forces for the first time, the U.S. military said on Wednesday, a step toward Seoul’s long-delayed goal of winning the war. command of allied forces in the event of war.
On Monday, the allies began their largest joint military exercise in years, called the Ulchi Freedom Shield, with the resumption of field training, aimed at increasing readiness for North Korea’s potential weapons tests.
The drills included a “defence-oriented, computer-simulated training event” aimed at enhancing the readiness of allies, US Forces Korea (USFK) said in a statement.
During the exercise, US Army General Paul LaCamera, who commands USFK troops, US-Korea Joint Forces Command (CFC) and United Nations Command (UNC), swapped positions. position for his deputy, said South Korean General Ahn Byung-seok, USFK.
The move builds on future command plans outlined by the US and South Korean defense ministers last year, LaCamera said in the statement.
“This is significant because, for the first time, the CFC deputy commander will take the lead as the future CFC commander,” he added.
Since the 1950-53 Korean War, the US military has retained control of hundreds of thousands of South Korean forces along with about 28,500 US troops stationed in the country should another war break out.
President Yoon Suk-yeol said South Korea was not ready to control the operation of those joint forces, after his predecessor Moon Jae-in pushed for it, facing delays over the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues. Other problems.
Yoon cited the need for greater surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, among other factors.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup took part in Wednesday’s drills, which the ministry said was aimed at better deterring and responding to nuclear and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats. of North Korea.
North Korea has criticized the joint drills as a rehearsal for aggression, calling them a “hostile policy” that shows Washington and Seoul really have no interest in diplomacy.