January 29, 2021 12:01
Most of the major combined South Korea-U.S. exercises have turned into computer-simulation training in the last three years.
All three key joint drills -- Key Resolve, Foal Eagle and Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercises -- were abolished in 2019 after U.S. President Donald Trump offered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un an unexpected gift at their first summit in Singapore.
As a result the two countries have staged no large-scale field training since 2018. Last year, joint drills were canceled or downscaled due to the coronavirus epidemic.
But even the simulations are too much for Kim, who has demanded suspension of another joint exercise slated for March.
U.S. Forces Korea Commander Robert Abrams expressed concerns that the joint drills are becoming "computer games" when he met a former senior South Korean official.
Abrams and the former official agreed that the two countries will have trouble keeping up their defense capabilities if soldiers never train together. They warned that soldiers could become frightened in a real-life confrontation if they are insufficiently trained in field exercises.
Defense Minister Suh Wook told reporters the March exercise, another simulation, "will be staged in compliance with quarantine guidelines."
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