July 21, 2020 10:09
South Korea and the U.S. will downsize joint military exercises scheduled for next month due to the coronavirus epidemic, which makes it hard for U.S. forces to travel from the mainland.
The downsizing will involve mainly the U.S. Forces Korea and shorten the drills to about two weeks. They were originally intended to test Seoul's ability to take over full operational control of its troops in wartime, but the curtailment could scupper plans to complete the handover before 2022.
A government source said Monday, "Taking into account the spread of COVID-19 and inter-Korean relations, South Korea and the U.S. will decide as early as this week whether to hold" the exercises. "We're strongly considering a smaller joint exercise without massive movements of American troops to the Korean Peninsula from the U.S. mainland."
South Korea still wants to focus on training for the transfer of operation control, while the U.S. just wants to sharpen combat readiness. But a substantial team of American observers would have to come to South Korea to see if it is ready to handle all aspects of operational control, and that seems now unlikely due to quarantine.
So far this month, 49 USFK officials and soldiers who arrived here tested positive for the virus.
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