The Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) runs starting from Monday for nine days. The first R.O.K.-U.S. joint military drill under the Biden administration will be scaled down to be merely operated in computer simulation with no field training exercise included in it, according to the military. It does not also plan the test of full operational capability (FOC) of the combined forces command (CFC), which will be led by South Korea after the OPCON transfer.
The COVID-19 pandemic is mainly attributable to the reduced scale of the joint military drills and its “war game” execution style. Since last month, three confirmed cases have been reported within the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Also, the nation records as many as 400-plus new infections on a daily basis. The recent built up in U.S. forces makes it harder to carry out field training exercises. Furthermore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in January called for the suspension of R.O.K-U.S. joint military exercises with special emphasis on a tit-for-tat approach. The Biden administration might have felt the need to keep things under management regarding North Korean issues with a slow tempo as it is making preparations for a new North Korea strategy.
Nevertheless, the reduction of the upcoming joint military drill is met with concerns in South Korea and the United States, and beyond. Since 2018 when Washington and Pyongyang initiated dialogue, large-sized joint military drills with the two nation's military troops and equipment on actual deployment have been effectively on hold for three years. Computer simulation alone does not help enhance coping capabilities of operation troops to react to geographical and environmental variables on the field. This only makes forces lose touch with actual capabilities that they need to show amid an extreme level of pressure and tension. For this reason, the Korea Retired Generals and Admirals Association argued for the normalization of the joint drills, saying, ”The survival of South Korea is safeguarded by its alliance with the United States and the joint drills are the linchpin of this relationship.”
To be sure, Pyongyang has not launched any mid- and long-range missile, contributing partly to situational management, while Seoul and Washington have had their joint drills put off or reduced to a smaller scale. Nevertheless, in the meantime, concerns have been increasing that Seoul and Washington’s operational readiness can suffer a fatal defect. If their level of operational readiness gets lower over time, it will only allow Pyongyang to miscalculate. That is why the CFC should plan to bring back field training exercises and look at their level of execution. Added to this, the retaking of wartime operational control, which Seoul is currently pushing ahead with, can happen only after a high level of readiness is firmly secured to protect against North Korea.