A joint simulated defensive exercise kicked off today, meant to strengthen joint efforts for the defence of South Korea, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said.
“This right now is an exercise to make certain that we’re ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there,” he said, adding that “because of the specific circumstance, we want it to be a command post-heavy, command post exercise.”
The exercise is defensive in nature, Mattis said, noting that joint exercises have been going on for decades. The exercise operates transparently and is carefully planned out to prevent any misinterpretation on what is occurring, he said.
“It’s calculated to not allow for miscalculation,” he added. The number of troops involved is because of the focus of this year’s exercise — command and control — and not in response to any factor from North Korea, he explained.
According to a press release:
“Ulchi Freedom Guardian is designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula, Defense Department officials said.
About 17,500 U.S. service members will participate, with about 3,000 coming from installations outside South Korea.
They will join military forces from major South Korean units representing all services, as well as South Korean government participants.
In addition, United Nations Command forces from seven nations — Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom — will participate.”
Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission observers will monitor the exercise to ensure it complies with the 1953 armistice agreement, officials said.
The UK is sending around 30 servicemen and women.