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ROK, U.S. kick off largest joint military exercise in five years

ROK, U.S. kick off largest joint military exercise in five years

Posted March. 18, 2023 07:49,   

Updated March. 18, 2023 07:49


The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the U.S. announced their largest joint military exercise in five years on Friday as North Korea confirmed the firing of its "monster missile" ICBM Hwasong-17 guided by the regime leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter. The announcement is a firm response and a strong warning to the North for its aggressive provocation aimed at the military cooperation between the ROK and the U.S. and among the ROK, the U.S., and Japan.

The joint military exercise will likely signal an earnest proceeding of follow-up measures between the militaries of the ROK and the U.S. after the leaders of the two countries and their military authorities agreed to substantially expand the scale and the scope of the joint exercise to deter North Korean nuclear threats.

The announcement included the "23 Ssang Yong (Twin Dragon) Exercise" to be conducted by the two nations' Navy and Marine Corps forces between March 20 and April 3 near Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province. The large-scale amphibious landing exercise has been suspended for five years since 2018, when the previous Moon Jae-in administration cited efforts for denuclearization negotiations. The exercise was conducted at the brigade level until 2018 but will be extended to the division level this time.

Military officials noted that both ROK and U.S. forces would be mobilized on a large scale both in the sea and the air in a show of the allies' overwhelming military capabilities and amphibious landing competency.

Around 13,000 soldiers, some 30 vessels, including USS Makin Island (LHD, 42,000 tons) and ROKS Dokdo (LPH, 14,500 tons), about 70 aircraft, including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and some 50 Korea Amphibious Assault Vehicles will be deployed in the joint drill.

USS Makin Island can hold as many as 2,800 forces including some 1,600 Marine Corps, while being able to load as many as 20 F-35B vertical landing stealth fighters, making the vessel practically a small aircraft carrier.

Also, for the first time, some 40 Marine troops from the U.K., a forces provider to the United Nations Command, will participate in the exercise, while personnel from Australia, France, and the Philippines plan to participate as observers.

The exercise will start with an escort operation to safely relocate the amphibious landing forces to the target area, entailing an array of contingency procedures such as recon surveillance, clearing mines, removing threat elements on the ground, providing fire support in amphibious landing locations, and conclude by conducting "the critical" airborne and seaborne assault operations to secure the target.

At the "critical" stage of the exercise scheduled at the end of March, large-scale airborne and seaborne joint military operations will culminate in the amphibious landing exercise.

"The upcoming exercise demonstrates the two allies' will to realize peace through strength and will further strengthen the combined defense posture to defend the South in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance," Lt. Gen. Kim Gye-hwan, the Marine Corps commandant.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com