Go to contents

ROK-US forces stage a closed joint amphibious training

Posted April. 04, 2017 07:07,   

Updated April. 04, 2017 07:15

South Korea and the U.S. militaries are staging a closed-door joint amphibious training from March 27 to April 5 in the areas of Pohang City in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea.

The training is designed for marine forces to simulate occupying Pyongyang after landing on the shore of North Korea in the shortest amount of time in case of emergencies. Along with the deployment of U.S. strategic weapons on the Korean Peninsula, the amphibious drill is considered as the highlight of Foal Eagle, the combined field training exercise conducted annually by the South Korean and U.S. militaries. Each year, the military authorities of the two countries have invited journalists from home and abroad to the amphibious training to encourage pressing and provided interviews of commanders and soldiers to send warnings against the North. And each time, Pyongyang has responded neurotically, expressing fear for the military drill on the other side of the peninsula.

This year, however, the military issued no invitations, nor did it disclose a detailed training schedule. There was no prior notice for "Decisive Action" (initiation of landing operation and securement of bridgeheads in enemies’ shore by U.S. and ROK marine forces) either, the climax of the training conducted in the waters off Doekseok-ri Beach in Pohang City on Sunday.

“The ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command and the Ministry of National Defense decided not to disclose their amphibious training this year. Detailed reasons have yet to be found out,” said a military official. “Initially, the plan was to provide assistance to press Decisive Action on the ground with an MV-22 Osprey, a transport aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, and it was allegedly canceled two weeks ago."

Pundits speculate that the recent change of tack by both military authorities is primarily attributable to the first summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, which is scheduled on Thursday and Friday. The low-key posture was adopted out of fear that the mood for the upcoming summit could be undermined by the massive joint military exercise designed to simulate seizing North Korea’s leadership, occupying Pyongyang, and stabilizing the North Korean regime in case of contingencies.

Another analysis maintains that the change of plan may have been a judgement call by the U.S. State Department out of concern that publicizing the news on joint military drills might add insult to injury for China, whose sentiment towards South Korea has turned sour since deployment of a THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula. “It appears that the Trump administration ‘calibrated’ the intensity of joint exercises such as by staging a closed amphibious training in a bid to induce cooperation from China in dealing North Korea’s nuclear program,” said Korea's high-ranking military official. Another speculation holds that the decision to curb media coverage over the joint drills is to prevent North Korea from making nuclear and missile provocations before the U.S.-China summit meeting.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com