The shooting training that was scheduled today has been postponed to next month, said the South Korean military, citing unfavorable weather conditions. It was a secret joint sea drill between the Army, the Navy and the Air Force in response to Pyongyang’s firing of missiles into East Sea. Faced with the claims that it was a move to please North Korea, the Defense Ministry said such claims are an attempt to distort its decision that had not been influenced by nothing but the protocols.
The ministry claimed that the delay was due to weather conditions. However, it begs the question why such claims are being made and if the Moon Jae-in administration’s efforts to improve inter-Korean relations have not affected the decision at all. This is not the first time military drills sparked controversy. There were concerns when joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises were cancelled or scaled back two years ago amid rapidly improving relations between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that people connect the dots between the recent delay and the joint training between the Navy and the Air Force in West Sea that faced a backlash from the North. The Office of National Security of the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae called a meeting with military officials after a report of the West Sea training provoked official opposition from Pyongyang. The presidential office said there was no reprimanding, but an ad-hoc meeting is enough to pressure the military. This explains the various speculations about the recent decision about the drills in East Sea.
The East Sea training is a live firing training that involves artillery, attack helicopters, battleships and combat aircrafts of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to hit targets in the sea. It will take place in Uljin, the North Gyeongsang Province instead of Goseong, Gangwon where the drills were previously held. The Defense Ministry has kept quiet about the training even though it does not violate the Sept. 19 military agreement as with the exercise.
Some argue that a series of cancelled military exercises have “neutralized” the military, which lacks even basic skills. An accident happened during last week’s mortar training on the front line where a shell fell one kilometer off the intended target. It was also not long ago when it was revealed that our K-6 heavy machine gun was broken when North Korea fired multiple gunshots. This series of mishaps could be a sign that the South Korean military focuses too much on administration.