By Jung Sung-ki
The U.S. Marine and Navy will not participate in the forthcoming amphibious training exercise with their South Korean counterparts scheduled for later this month, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Wednesday.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced Tuesday a plan to hold a large-scale military drill from Nov. 22-30 with the participation of about 70,000 troops from all the four services of the South Korean Armed Forces.
As part of the “Hoguk” exercise, the South Korean and U.S. Marines and Navies had originally planned a joint amphibious exercise in the western waters of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. Marine’s expeditionary force from Okinawa, Japan, was scheduled to take part in the landing exercise.
A local newspaper speculated that the cancellation of participation by the U.S. Marines in the exercise comes amid repeated complaints from China about joint maritime maneuvers conducted by U.S. and South Korean forces in the West Sea.
Beijing considers most of the West Sea, or Yellow Sea, to be its territory, despite international agreements that declare most of those areas to be open waters.
“The U.S. Marine and Navy participation in the annual ROK-U.S. amphibious training exercise had to be postponed due to scheduling conflicts,” Col. Jonathan Withington, chief of the USFK public affairs office, told The Korea Times. “The U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea will look for another opportunity to conduct this vital training at a later date.”
The annual exercise is important for maintaining the combat readiness of both the Combined Forces Command and the ROK-U.S. alliance, the colonel added.
South Korea has staged a series of massive military drills along with the U.S. military in recent months in a show of strength against North Korea in the aftermath of the sinking of one of the South’s warships in March this year.
In May, a Seoul-led international team of investigators determined that the ship, Cheonan, was sunk by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine.
Forty-six sailors were killed in the incident. North Korea denies the allegation.