USFK Chief Designate Concerned About Lack of Training

  • By Lee Yong-soo

    May 20, 2021 11:40

    The next commander of the U.S. Forces Korea has expressed concerns about the halt of major joint exercises with South Korea for the last three years.

    Gen. Paul LaCamera said during a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that field maneuvers are much better than the current computer simulations.

    The new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden wants to resume South Korea-U.S. military drills, which were suspended by then-U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 as a carrot to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

    Gen. Paul LaCamera, the nominee for U.S. Forces Korea Commander, speaks at a confirmation hearing in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. /UPI-Yonhap

    "They are extremely important to build readiness," LaCamera said. "They are also extremely important to allow that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen get an opportunity to work with our [South Korean] allies and see just how good they are."

    He added that such training is a potential bargaining chip in negotiations with North Korea but added his duty is to identify and reduce dangers caused by halted training.

    In a written statement to the Senate prior to the hearing, LaCamera also stressed the need to deploy more so-called strategic assets such as an aircraft carrier and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets to the Korean Peninsula. He also called for trilateral drills with South Korean and Japanese troops, be it near the Korean Peninsula or on the U.S. mainland.

    The South Korean government has been bending over backwards to appease North Korea and is likely to be alarmed at the prospect of resuming the joint drills on the former scale. But North Korea has already severed all communication with South Korea, so it is unclear how resuming the exercises could make things worse.

    A 1985 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, LaCamera has served in airborne and special operations forces and fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Stars and Stripes, the American military newspaper, on Tuesday called him one of "the Army's most combat-experienced officers."

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