Posted February. 10, 2015 07:10,
South Korea and the U.S. will reportedly reduce significantly the scale of their joint landing drill (Ssangyong Drill) to be conducted next month. Compared with last year drill that involved participation by 10,000 troops, the largest in scale since the Team Spirit Drill in 1989, this years event only represents 40 percent in scale. Watchers say that the reduction of the drills scale might have been affected by the South Korean governments policy stance toward North Korea, as the former seeks dialogue with Pyongyang.
The U.S. Marine Corps will send some 1,000-stong troops, including a battalion-grade combat unit and support troops to the Ssangyong Drill, which will take place in early March, according to South Korean government sources on Monday. The South Korean Marine Corps will reportedly deploy some 3,000 troops, the same scale as last year`s. When only considering the scale of the U.S. Marines set to participate in this years drill, the exercise is effectively decreasing to one seventh in scale from last year when over 7,000 U.S. Marines took part. The South Korean and U.S. Marine Corps are currently coordinating the scale of the drill, said a source in the South Korean government.
The Ssangyong Drill is reportedly an exercise that is most dreaded by the North. Under the joint landing drill, in the event of a full-blown war, the best elite Marine combat troops from South Korea and the U.S. land in the East Sea and the Yellow Sea coasts to advance to Pyongyang. Linking a brigade-scale joint landing drill with the exercise for U.S. Marines deployment to the Korean Peninsula, it was first conducted as part of the South Korea-U.S. joint Foal Eagle drill in March 2012. At the time, the North strongly protested the drill calling it an "exercise for invasion into the North."
The U.S. military will mobilize troops from the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based in Okinawa, Japan, to the Ssangyong Drill. These troops are the core combat forces that are set to be deployed to South Korea before other U.S. forces in the event of war, according to the South Korea-U.S. Joint Operational Plan (OPLAN).
Generally, the drill also entails the mobilization of maritime and airborne forces, including the MV-22 Osprey and amphibious assault ships. The Osprey, a vertical takeoff and landing airplane (VTOL), is considered a flagship force tasked with supporting landing operation.
On the reason behind the scale down of this years drill, insiders and outsiders of the South Korean military suspect that the mood of Seouls overture to Pyongyang to hold inter-Korean dialogue might have affected. If the two Koreas hold dialogue, it will provide an opportunity for the South to lift the May 24 sanctions, Seouls Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said at a special lecture on Friday, urging the North to respond.
The scale down of the U.S. Marine Corps participation to a battalion-grade force has nothing to do with the Seouls policy stance toward the North, said another Seoul government source. The measure has been taken as South Korea and the U.S. adjust the scale of troops and equipment to be mobilized in the drill by comprehensively considering issues including the U.S. militarys budget.