The South Korean government said Tuesday that it would combine the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise, an annual defense drill that it had earlier suspended amid denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States, with the South Korean military’s internal “Taegeuk” exercise. Tentatively under the name of the “Ulchi Taegeuk” exercise, the new defense drill is slated to begin next year. Some observers raise concern about whether the decision implies the termination of the UFG exercise, a joint exercise with the United States, which is defensive in nature.
Military authorities said Tuesday that the government would conduct the “Ulchi Taegeuk” exercise from next year, which incorporates the Ulchi exercise and the existing command post exercises (CPX). With the decision, the existing UFG drill has been scrapped this year.
Conducted every August, the UFG exercise is the integration of South Korea’s Ulchi exercise and South Korea-U.S. joint military drill Freedom Guardian (FG). Previously known as “Ulchi-Focus Lens” from 1976 to 2007, it was changed to the “UFG” in 2008.
“The government has decided to temporarily suspend the Ulchi exercise slated for later this year and instead come up with a new drill ‘Ulchi Taegeuk’ exercise in connection with internal Taegeuk drill,” Interior and Safety Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a press briefing with Defense Minister Song Young-moo after the Cabinet meeting in Seoul Tuesday. An official at the Defense Ministry said that the decision was made in consideration of changing security circumstances and timing, and also made through close consultations with the United States.
The government will decide whether to hold the South Korea-U.S. Freedom Guardian (FG) exercise, which had been conducted as part of the UFG exercise, by taking into account North Korea’s progress towards denuclearization and other security circumstances, the official added.
Meanwhile, some are expressing concerns over the possible negative impacts of the separation of the Ulchi exercise and FG drill on the close coordination system of Seoul and Washington’s military authorities.
Sang-Ho Yun firstname.lastname@example.org