April 21, 2011 09:19
The U.S. Forces Korea will participate in more multinational military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, going beyond its duties to defend the Korean Peninsula.
In a press briefing at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, the commander of the Eighth U.S. Army, said the USFK's participation in overseas drills will become "routine." But he claimed the USFK has secured transport so troops can immediately return to South Korea from overseas missions in case of a crisis on the peninsula.
The first large dispatch consisted of about 500 members of the Second U.S. Infantry Division to join Exercise Balikatan 2011 in the Philippines from April 5 to 15. Earlier this year, it had also dispatched a smaller group of troops to join the Cobra Gold war games in Thailand.
Col. Donald Jackson, the Eighth U.S. Army chief of staff, said USFK troops will participate in drills organized by the U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Army-Pacific Command, and this "Pacific integration" will allow the USFK to boost its operational support capabilities in South Korea.
But he declined to go into details because he did not know what drills will be staged in the future.
Johnson said the number of U.S. forces here will be maintained at 28,500 as agreed on by Seoul and Washington. "We are stronger today than we have ever been in the way we share information and capability," he said.
In other remarks, he said no unusual movement by the North Korean military has been detected. He expressed support for defense reform in South Korea.
Following deployment of latest-model M1 tanks, the USFK plans to introduce newest armored combat vehicles this summer, he said. The M1 tanks deployed at the Second U.S. Infantry Division are ultramodern M1A2 SEP tanks, the same model deployed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the newest armored vehicles are M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
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