South Korea Suspends Annual Defense Drill
(Source: The Korea Herald; issued July 10, 2018)
South Korea's government said Tuesday that it has decided to cancel this year's Ulchi exercise, an annual defense drill intended to examine the state's war preparedness, in consideration of the "changing security circumstances" on the Korean Peninsula.

The decision was reached at a weekly Cabinet meeting early in the day, as the Seoul government has recently refrained from military drills and other moves that might provoke North Korea amid its ongoing denuclearization talks with the United States.

Kim Boo-kyum, minister of the interior, announced the decision after the Cabinet meeting, saying, "The government has decided to temporarily suspend the Ulchi exercise slated for later this year, in accordance with the changing security circumstances and earlier decisions to halt joint military drills between South Korea and the US."

The Ulchi exercise, which was launched in 1969 following a raid of North Korean commandos on the presidential residence in Seoul the previous year, is an annual training meant to comprehensively check the state's crisis management capabilities and warfare preparedness. About 480,000 officials from 4,000 government offices and public institutions have participated in the exercise.

In 2008, the Ulchi exercise and the Freedom Guardian exercise, a South Korean-US joint military drill, were integrated into the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise.

The halt of this year's Ulchi drill was long expected after Seoul and Washington announced the suspension of the Freedom Guardian exercise, slated for August, on June 19, a week after US President Donald Trump promised to stop any "provocative" war games on the Korean Peninsula at his summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang has long decried the UFG and other South Korean-US joint military drills as an invasion rehearsal.

Minister Kim said that, beginning next year, Seoul plans to combine Ulchi with the South Korean military's "Taegeuk" exercise to introduce a new defense drill, tentatively named the "Ulchi Taeguk" exercise, that will also involve the private sector.

"The Ulchi Taeguk exercise will be intended to guard against terrorism and large-scale disasters, as well as armed attacks from outside," the minister said.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo also told reporters that the military's Taeguk exercise slated for June will be carried out in late October due to the suspension of the UFG.

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Cost of One of Those 'Expensive' US-S. Korea Military Exercises? $14 Mln
(Source: The Korea Herald; issued July 09, 2018)
A joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea scrapped after President Donald Trump griped about "tremendously expensive" military drills would have cost around $14 million, US officials told Reuters on Friday.

The Pentagon announced last month that it was indefinitely suspending the Freedom Guardian military exercise in support of the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump repeatedly touted the cost savings that would come with his decision to stop "the war games," in a surprise concession to Kim at the June 12 summit to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not provide details on the cost breakdown or the specifics of what was included. The Pentagon has not divulged the total cost of the multiple drills staged each year by the US and South Korean armed forces.

Calculating the cost of military exercises is a complicated process, often requiring data from different branches of the military and spread over several budgets over different years.

Last year, 17,500 American troops and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Freedom Guardian drills, though the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.

The $14 million price tag compares with a recent contract awarded to Boeing Co for nearly $24 million for two refrigerators to store food aboard Air Force One, the presidential plane. The contract has since been canceled due to possible delivery of an updated Air Force One aircraft.

"We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith - which both sides are!" Trump said on Twitter last month.

The decision to halt military exercises in South Korea has bewildered many current and former US defense officials, who only learned about it when Trump made his remarks.

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