ROK, US resume battalion-level joint marine drills after six month suspension
Marine forces of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US on Monday resumed their battalion-level joint drills, which had been suspended for six months due to the peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula, according to local media reports citing the ROK defense ministry.
The Korea Marine Exercise Program (KMEP) kicked off in areas near ROK's southeast coastal city of Pohang, mobilizing about 500 marines that included US troops from Okinawa, Japan, and military equipment such as assault amphibious vehicles.
ROK President Moon Jae-in and top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un held summit meetings three times during the six month suspension.
During the latest Pyongyang summit in September, defense chiefs of the two Koreas signed a military agreement, according to which the two sides stopped all hostile acts in border areas from the beginning of November.
Under the agreement, the two sides stopped large-scale drills, including live-fire artillery drills and field maneuvering exercises by regiments or bigger units, near the border, but the small-scale exercises were still allowed.
Seoul and Washington decided to suspend the Vigilant Ace combined air defense exercise, originally scheduled for December this year. It is a large-scale air force drill mobilizing hundreds of combat airplanes such as the US stealth fighter jets.
From October 2018 to September 2019, the marine forces of the two allies planned to stage the joint drills 24 times. For the past 12-month period, the combined marine drills were conducted 11 times.
(Cover: ROK marines march during a military exercise as a part of the annual joint military training called Foal Eagle between the ROK and the US in Pohang, April 5, 2018. /Reuters Photo)