US-South Korea military readiness hurt by drill pause
The suspension of US-South Korean drills in summer 2018 hurt the readiness of the two militaries, the nominee to head US and UN forces in South Korea said on 25 September.
General Robert Abrams said the pause in drills, which US President Donald Trump agreed to at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June 2018, had been a ‘prudent risk’ to help facilitate a detente on the peninsula.
But there ‘was certainly a degradation in the readiness of the force, for the combined forces,’ Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing.
In June 2018, after Trump met Kim in Singapore, the US said it would suspend ‘select’ exercises with South Korea, including the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises slated for August 2018.
In September 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US would end its suspension of drills, though he later walked his comments back saying ‘no decisions’ had been made.
Abrams went on to say that the continued suspension of the drills risked a further erosion in ‘readiness and capability and interoperability of the combined forces,’ though he noted officials were working to minimise issues by running smaller scale staff exercises.
If confirmed, Abrams would fill the post currently occupied by General Vincent Brooks.
In military jargon, the role is ‘triple hatted,’ meaning Abrams would head the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and US Forces Korea.
When asked how he views North Korea currently, Abrams said Pyongyang had not changed its military posture but described a ‘general feeling of detente’ on the peninsula.
Referring to North Korea by its official name, Abrams said: ‘It's been over 300 days since the last major provocation from the DPRK. Since then, there's been significant dialogue at multiple levels to include ... communications between UN Command and the DPRK at senior officer level for the first time in 11 years.’
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