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US Forces Korea - Exercises


On 14 June 2018 the Pentagon announced suspension of US drills with South Korea. The move followed a statement by US President Donald Trump, who said in a press conference after the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 that it was inappropriate to hold "war games" in the region in order to negotiate a deal.

"Major military exercises have been suspended indefinitely on the Korean Peninsula," a senior US official told AFP news agency. South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated, that a change in military pressure on North Korea would be possible only if Pyongyang was to "carry out denuclearization steps sincerely."

On June 12 Trump and Kim met on the Singaporean island of Sentosa. Following a one-on-one meeting and subsequent negotiations in an expanded format, the leaders signed a document showing their commitment to establish new bilateral relations and build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. After the summit the US President stated, that military exercises in the region were "provocative" and might be suspended. "The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them," Trump told a news conference.

Trump's decision to stop military exercises with South Korea without receiving verifiable commitments from North Korea was troubling, US Senators Patrick Leahy and Jeanne Shaheen said in separate statements. Jeanne Shaheen said, "It is especially troubling that President's Trump's pledge to end joint military exercises with the South Korean military seems to have come as a surprise to both South Korea and the Pentagon. "[I]t is troubling that the President has agreed to unilaterally halt military exercises with South Korea without verifiable commitments from North Korea to denuclearize while giving Kim the recognition he has long craved. So far all we have seen is a photo op coupled with a few broadly worded commitments," US Senator Patrick Leahy said.

The ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, established in Seoul in 1978 by the two countries, is a unique, integrated Korean-American headquarters responsible for the defense of the ROK. FOAL EAGLE was one of a series of four major Combined Forces Command annual exercises: TEAM SPIRIT, ULCHI FOCUS LENS, Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI), and FOAL EAGLE.

Thoroughly revamped in 1994, the CFC exercise program was the cornerstone for stability on the Korean Peninsula. Each exercise provides a visible, stable platform providing annual training in key Operations Plan (OPLAN) tasks or Joint Mission-Essential Tasks. Showcasing the US-ROK demonstrated resolve, and with CFC combat capability and deterrence as goals, the exercise strategy incorporates ROK and US national guidance, CINC CFC's guidance, and resource and environmental constraints.

Previously, the periodic CFC exercises were diverse operations that shared only a common link to the operations plan. By 2000, however, CFC had begun tying together theater-training events to be mutually supporting. Theater-training objectives are identified based on lessons learned from previous exercises or warfighting requirements. These objectives then serve as a common theme for exercise design and training events. Staff training focuses on these areas throughout the year, and they are tested and stressed during Ulchi Focus Lens and the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration exercises. Subordinate commands focus on the same objectives at their level during the yearly Foal Eagle exercise.

Because of the high annual turnover of US and ROK personnel, it was necessary to train on all critical OPLAN tasks, to include strategic deployment and reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of US augmenting unit, each year. All critical OPLAN tasks must be trained to annually, including strategic deployment and reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of US augmenting units, due to the high yearly CFC turnover of US and ROK personnel. The annual exercise program provides opportunities for realistic training of the critical phases and procedures of the theater warplan. All theater level exercise training was conducted in a joint and combined environment to improve cooperation, coordination, communication and interoperability.

The United States has about 37,000 servicemembers in South Korea. In order to deter war on the Korean peninsula and enhance combined operational readiness, a number of ROK-US combined exercises and training events are carried out according to integrated operation plans, whose roots can be found in the ROK-US combined defense system. The plans include the Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL) exercise, the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement & Integration (RSOI) exercise, the Foal Eagle (FE) exercise, the Team Spirit (TS) exercise, and others. Training continues to be a major ingredient in ensuring the defense of the Republic of Korea against any aggressor. U.S. and ROK forces regularly conduct major unit exercises and field maneuvers to test their abilities to maintain a thoroughly trained and totally ready force. At the unit level, frequent no-notice alerts, musters, and operational readiness inspections insure combat preparedness for ROK and U.S. forces.

The Team Spirit exercise, held between 1976 and 1993 by the U.S. and South Korean militaries, was canceled in hopes North Korea would abandon its nuclear program and allow international inspections. Team Spirit continued to be scheduled from 1994 to 1996 but was canceled each year as an incentive to improve relations. About 200,000 U.S. and South Korean servicemembers participted in Team Spirit.

Ulchi Focus Lens, scheduled annually in August, was a computer-based war game exercise with few field activities. About 56,000 South Korean and 20,000 U.S. servicemembers participated last year. The exercise focuses on how U.S. and South Korean forces would defend against a North Korean attack. North Korea usually denounces the exercise, calling it a preparation for war. The tank crossing on the Han River was one of the most visual parts of Ulchi Focus Lens. Ulchi Focus Lens also included mock air raids and chemical weapons attacks on the capital during which all streets were cleared.

FOAL EAGLE (FE) was one of three annual exercises that are focused on the defense of the Republic of Korea. The first exercise, taking place around April, was Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSO&I). RSO&I involves simulating the large-scale movement of troops onto the Korean peninsula. At this stage of the simulated engagement, a war with North Korea was imminent, but actual fighting has not yet begun. The second of the three exercises was Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL), where the first few days of engagement are practiced in a computer-simulated environment. Foal Eagle continues the scenario and expands upon it using real troops and actual assets in live training environment exercises.

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Page last modified: 03-03-2023 13:33:34 ZULU