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Resumption of `Team Spirit` Drill Mulled

Posted May. 26, 2010 13:45,   


The resumption of a massive South Korea-U.S. military drill similar to Team Spirit is under consideration due to North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan. Team Spirit was halted after 1994.

A military official in Seoul said Tuesday, “As part of military countermeasures against North Korea, we are reviewing resuming joint military drills with the U.S. similar to Team Sprit at a working level,” adding, “Watching how North Korea responds, we will make a final decision through talks with the U.S.”

“I cannot say for sure if the new exercise will be named Team Spirit, but we`re considering conducting a similar one.”

Seoul and Washington hold the joint drill Ulchi Freedom Guardian every year, but this is a measure to strengthen bilateral mission capability rather than an exercise.

Team Spirit had been carried out every year since 1976 but was stopped in 1992 after the two Koreas signed an inter-Korean basic agreement. When the first North Korean nuclear crisis began in 1993, the drill was temporarily revived but stopped again after negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang in 1994.

The month-long drill involved 150,000 South Korean and 70,000 to 80,000 U.S. troops, causing the North Korean military to go into a quasi-state of war. Pyongyang blasted Team Spirit as an exercise to attack the North.

Separately, the South Korean Navy will hold its first anti-submarine exercise in the Yellow Sea since the Cheonan sinking.

A South Korean naval official said, “We will hold military maneuvers by mobilizing 10 naval ships under the 2nd Naval Fleet in waters near the Taean Peninsula Thursday,” adding, “Depth bomb and cannon drills will also be conducted.”

A 3,500-ton South Korean destroyer, three patrol ships and six speed vessels will participate in the drill.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters that the U.S. and South Korea will soon conduct joint naval exercises to detect enemy submarines and block ships carrying nuclear materials. He said the exercises will strengthen bilateral cooperation and war deterrence.

mhpark@donga.com yhchoi65@donga.com