Korea, U.S. to Scale Back or Skip Joint Drills

  • By Cho Yi-jun, Yang Seung-sik

    February 26, 2020 13:02

    The coronavirus outbreak is starting to affect the operations and preparedness of Korean and U.S. forces here. Some units in the frontline area have suspended surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the demilitarized zone to prevent the spread of the disease.

    In their latest talks in Washington, the two countries' defense chiefs also mentioned the possibility of scaling back or even canceling joint drills slated for next month.

    Last week, some ground troops suspended part of routine operations in the DMZ to keep them in their barracks, a military spokesman said. "As a result, some units haven't engaged in field operations for the past three days," he added.

    The military has recently ordered frontline units to come up with protective measures for essential personnel assigned to guard posts in the DMZ and command and control posts.

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Robert Abrams and his Korean counterpart Gen. Park Han-ki are "reviewing" the scaling back of joint drills scheduled for March amid the coronavirus scare.

    Originally, the two countries were to stage joint command-post exercises in March on a similar scale to last year. This is largely a computer-simulation wargame that needs no ground troops and equipment to swarm out. But it still requires hundreds of troops to gather together in an underground bunker in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, where the risk of infection could be high.

    Meanwhile, five more Korean soldiers tested positive for the coronavirus in Daegu on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections in the military to 18.

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