August 20th, 2017 18:15 EST
Exercise to Strengthen Efforts in Defense of South Korea, Mattis Says
A joint U.S.-South Korean computer-simulated defensive exercise set to kick off tomorrow is meant to strengthen joint efforts for the defense of South Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which runs to Aug. 31, is focusing on command post operations for the integration of efforts, Mattis told reporters traveling with him while en route to Jordan on the first leg of an overseas trip.
"This right now is an exercise to make certain that we`re ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there," he said, adding that "because of the specific circumstance, we want it to be a command post-heavy, command post exercise."
The exercise is defensive in nature, Mattis said, noting that joint exercises have been going on for decades. The exercise operates transparently and is carefully planned out to prevent any misinterpretation on what is occurring, he said.
"It`s calculated to not allow for miscalculation," he added. The number of troops involved is because of the focus of this year`s exercise -- command and control -- and not in response to any factor from North Korea, he explained.
Highlights Long-Standing Partnership
Ulchi Freedom Guardian is designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula, Defense Department officials said. About 17,500 U.S. service members will participate, with about 3,000 coming from installations outside South Korea. They will join military forces from major South Korean units representing all services, as well as South Korean government participants.
In addition, United Nations Command forces from seven nations -- Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom -- will participate.
Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission observers will monitor the exercise to ensure it complies with the 1953 armistice agreement, defense officials said. Training exercises like Ulchi Freedom Guardian are carried out in the spirit of the Oct. 1, 1953, South Korean-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty and in accordance with the armistice, the officials added.
"These exercises also highlight the longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help to ensure peace and security on the peninsula, and reaffirm U.S. commitment to the alliance," a defense official said in the statement announcing the exercise. (Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)
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