ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – S. Korean troops on overseas missions celebrate Chuseok

SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) — South Korean soldiers deployed overseas celebrated the Chuseok holiday with various activities but without events inviting guests due to coronavirus concerns, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Monday.

This year’s Chuseok, the Korean autumn harvest celebration and one of the biggest holidays in the country, falls on Tuesday, resulting in a five-day weekend that started Saturday.

South Korean soldiers overseas usually invite locals to their bases and hold events to mark the national holiday. But they are celebrating the holiday themselves this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the military.

From the Dongmyeong unit in Lebanon and the Hanbit unit in South Sudan to the Akh unit in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Cheonghae unit on anti-piracy missions off the coast of Africa, troops held a joint memorial ceremony for ancestors and enjoyed traditional games at their respective bases, the JCS said.

“The Akh unit members spent the holiday while also preparing for a combined exercise with the UAE slated for October,” a JCS officer said.

Currently, some 1,000 South Korean troops are operating on missions across the globe for international peace and defense cooperation.

Service members of South Korea's Cheonghae unit on anti-piracy missions off the coast of Africa play a Korean traditional game to mark the Chuseok holiday in this photo provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Service members of South Korea’s Cheonghae unit on anti-piracy missions off the coast of Africa play a Korean traditional game to mark the Chuseok holiday in this photo provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210916007500325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – N. Korea test-fires new long-range cruise missiles: state media

By Koh Byung-joon and Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) — North Korea has successfully test-fired a new type of long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media reported Monday, a low-level provocation amid stalled talks with the United States.

The test-firings, which took place Saturday and Sunday without leader Kim Jong-un in attendance, came right after the North held a scaled-down military parade, and appeared to be intent on demonstrating its military power in a low-level provocation without violating U.N. sanctions.

The North is banned from using ballistic technology under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Cruise missiles, however, are not subject to the sanctions as they are considered less of a threat than ballistic missiles.

The missiles “traveled for 7,580 seconds along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits in the air above the territorial land and waters” in North Korea and “hit targets 1,500 km away,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

“The development of the long-range cruise missile, a strategic weapon of great significance in meeting the key target of the five-year plan for the development of the defense science and the weapon system … has been pushed forward according to the scientific and reliable weapon system development process for the past two years,” the KCNA said.

“Detailed tests of missile parts, scores of engine ground thrust tests, various flight tests, control and guidance tests, warhead power tests, etc. were conducted with success,” it added.

The photos, provided by the Korean Central News Agency on Sept. 13, 2021, show a missile being fired and traveling in the sky. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The photos, provided by the Korean Central News Agency on Sept. 13, 2021, show a missile being fired and traveling in the sky. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the latest test poses threats to the region and beyond.

“We are aware of reports of DPRK cruise missile launches. We will continue to monitor the situation and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the command said in a release. DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“This activity highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community. The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad,” it added.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that an in-depth analysis is under way in close cooperation with U.S. intelligence authorities but refused to confirm details, including where the test was conducted and if they detected the launches in advance.

The South Korean military has disclosed information on North Korea’s test-firings of ballistic missiles almost on a real-time basis, but not for cruise missile tests.

Experts say the North’s newly unveiled weapon resembles the U.S.’ long-range Tomahawk and South Korea’s Hyunmoo-3C cruise missiles.

Ballistic missiles have a much longer range and move faster than cruise missiles of the same size. But cruise missiles are still threatening as they fly in a relatively straight line and at low altitudes, making them harder to detect. Cruise missiles can also carry nuclear warheads, according to the experts.

The latest test-firings came after the North held a scaled-down military parade at midnight Thursday to mark the 73rd state founding anniversary.

The North paraded mostly paramilitary troops, fire engines and artillery-carrying tractors rather than intercontinental ballistic missiles and other strategic weapons. The event appeared to be aimed at consolidating internal solidarity amid challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and global sanctions on its economy.

The test-firings also came after the North warned of “a serious security crisis” in protest against the major combined exercise between South Korea and the U.S. last month. Many have expected the North to carry out major weapons tests or to undertake provocations.

Pak Jong-chon, member of the Presidium of the politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party, watched the latest test-firings, along with other senior officials, the KCNA said. Leader Kim did not attend the tests.

“He stressed the need for the field of the national defense science to go all out to increase the defense capabilities, the war deterrence of the country and keep making achievements in meeting the grand and long-term targets of securing war deterrence,” Pak said, according to the KCNA.

Experts said that North Korea appears to have conducted the test-firings in a way that demonstrates its military power, but by using cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles, it avoided provoking the U.S. too much.

They still worried that the North could continue conducting such tests going forward and seek to make those missiles smaller and possibly adaptable to submarines down the line.

“Given that the missile development was launched two years ago as part of the five-year plan, the project appears to have started after mid-2019,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a state-run think tank.

“The North could continue such tests so as to make them smaller as part of the five-year plan, and there is also a possibility that the missiles could be developed to be able to be launched from submarines,” he added.

The latest firing marks the third known major missile test by the communist country so far this year.

On March 21, the North fired two cruise missiles off the west coast, according to the JCS. Four days later, it fired off two ballistic missiles into the East Sea, believed to be an upgraded version of its KN-23 Iskander-type missile.

Some local media also reported that the North conducted a cruise missile test in January just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden took office.

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Yonhap – N. Korea holds midnight military parade without Kim’s address, new weapons

By Koh Byung-joon and Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea held a midnight military parade to mark the 73rd anniversary of its founding, but leader Kim Jong-un did not deliver an address and no new strategic weapons were displayed, according to state media and South Korean officials.

The parade, which began at midnight Thursday, was watched closely by South Korea and others because the North could show off state-of-the-art weapons systems or leader Kim could make a speech about inter-Korean relations or nuclear talks with the United States.

But the parade at Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square featured artillery-carrying tractors and military search dogs rather than intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other strategic weapons. Also seen were fire engines looking like the same model produced by German carmaker Mercedes Benz.

Leader Kim reviewed the parade, but no speech was given.

The official Korean Central News Agency said the parade was mostly led by the Worker-Peasant Red Guards (WPRG), a civilian defense organization in North Korea composed of around 5.7 million workers and farmers, rather than regular troops.

“North Korea does not appear to have presented strategic weapons this time. I think the parade was mainly for domestic audiences, rather than to convey messages to the U.S. or South Korea,” a military official in Seoul said.

The parade was also conducted on a smaller scale than the previous ones held in January this year and in October last year, as it seemed to have lasted for about an hour and involved a small number of personnel and equipment, he added.

It marked the North’s first military parade since U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The January event was held days before Biden’s inauguration.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front) acknowledges the crowd during a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2021, to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the country's founding, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front) acknowledges the crowd during a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2021, to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the country’s founding, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

“The military parade of civilian and security armed forces was held at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang to mark the 73rd anniversary of the republic’s founding,” the KCNA said. “As the welcoming music was performed at midnight on Thursday, Comrade Kim Jong-un walked up to a podium.”

Photos and reports by the KCNA and the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim dressed in a Western-style suit waving at rifle-toting, goose-stepping soldiers marching through the square.

Later in the day, state TV aired recorded footage of the parade.

Instead of leader Kim, Ri Il-hwan, a party secretary, addressed the parade.

“The government of the republic will firmly defend the dignity and the fundamental interests of our people and solve everything our own way with our own efforts on the principle of self-reliance and self-development under any circumstances,” Ri was quoted as saying by the KCNA.

“We will increase the People’s Army, a pillar in defending the state, in every way, put the defense industry on a higher juche and modernized basis and keep spurring the struggle for carrying out the Party’s policy on putting all the people under arms and turning the whole country into a fortress to ceaselessly improve the defense capability of the country,” he added.

The North last staged a military parade in January after a rare party congress and showcased a new submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and other advanced ballistic missiles. In October last year, it also held a massive nighttime military parade, displaying new types of SLBM and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Thursday’s parade came as the North has been struggling with a worsening economy amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and international sanctions. North Korea claims to be coronavirus-free but has maintained border closures with China since early last year.

Denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea have also stalled. Washington has said it is ready to hold talks with the North anywhere, at anytime, but the communist country has remained unresponsive to U.S. overtures.

Last month, the North warned of “a serious security crisis” in protest against the major combined exercise between South Korea and the U.S. Some have expected the North to carry out major weapons tests or to undertake provocations, but the JCS has said the North had not shown any unusual military moves.

North Korea last held a military parade on the occasion of the national foundation day in 2018 to celebrate the 70th anniversary. At that time, the communist country did not display ICBMs that could target the U.S., as the event took less than three months after the first summit between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210909000456325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – No discussions with U.S. on USFK troop reduction: defense ministry

SEOUL, Sept. 6 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States had no discussions on reducing American troop levels in South Korea, the defense ministry said Monday, after a U.S. House committee passed a bill not specifying a lower limit for the number of its soldiers stationed here.

On Thursday, the U.S. House committee on armed services passed a defense authorization bill that does not specify the lower limit for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

U.S. Congress began adding a lower limit for the 28,500-strong USFK in 2018, after then President Donald Trump started to use the troop levels as a bargaining chip in talks with South Korea over negotiations on how to share the cost for the upkeep of the American troops here.

An informed source has said the removal of such a clause was because the Joe Biden administration has no plans to reduce troop levels in the Asian ally.

“I once again stress that there were no discussions with the U.S. side on reducing USFK troop levels,” deputy ministry spokesman Col. Moon Hong-sik said during a regular press briefing.

A foreign ministry official stressed that Washington has confirmed it has no intention to pare down the U.S. troop presence here.

“We don’t think the removal of the clause means a policy shift of the U.S. government,” the official said.

“South Korea and the U.S. share the firm understanding of the role of and the need for the USFK,” he added.

This file photo, taken on Aug. 5, 2021, shows a U.S. military base in Dongducheon, north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

This file photo, taken on Aug. 5, 2021, shows a U.S. military base in Dongducheon, north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

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Korea Joongang Daily – U.S. House bill could restrict troop drawdown to 22,000

Gen. Won in-choul, chairman of Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and Gen. Robert Abrams, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), take part in an honor guard ceremony hosted by the JCS at its headquarters in Yongsan District, central Seoul, Tuesday. Abrams led the USFK since November 2018, and Gen. Paul LaCamera will succeed him in a change of command ceremony slated for Friday. Abrams said he will continue to actively support the “ironclad” bilateral alliance. [JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF]

Gen. Won in-choul, chairman of Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and Gen. Robert Abrams, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), take part in an honor guard ceremony hosted by the JCS at its headquarters in Yongsan District, central Seoul, Tuesday. Abrams led the USFK since November 2018, and Gen. Paul LaCamera will succeed him in a change of command ceremony slated for Friday. Abrams said he will continue to actively support the “ironclad” bilateral alliance. [JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF]

A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives restricting the drawdown of U.S. troops in Korea to a floor of 22,000, which is 6,500 lower than a cap set under the current National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Alliance Act calls to maintain a strong military readiness on the Korean Peninsula by limiting the American president’s power to reduce U.S. forces deployed in Korea.

The bill states, “None of the funds made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2022 may be used to reduce the total number of members of the United States Armed Forces serving on active duty who are deployed to the Republic of Korea below 22,000,” unless it is in the national security interest of the United States and will not undermine the security of U.S. allies in the region.

The limit is lower than the one set in the NDAA for the fiscal year 2021, which restricts a drawdown of troops below 28,500. The NDAA for fiscal year 2019 required a floor of 22,000 troops.

The latest bill was introduced by a group of bipartisan lawmakers including Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey last Friday, to mark the 71st anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Gallagher’s office told the Voice of America Monday that 28,500 is a figure that takes into account the rotational deployment of U.S. troops from the U.S. mainland to South Korea.

Under the proposed House bill, the defense secretary would have to have “appropriately consulted” with allies Seoul and Tokyo on such a reduction, and South Korea would also have to be “fully capable of defending itself and deterring a conflict on the Korean Peninsula” even after a reduction of troops. This is similar to the preconditions under the current NDAA.

However, the bill includes a list of more stringent measures to take into consideration for a withdrawal of U.S. troops in the region, including “the effect of such reduction on increasing incentives for the Republic of Korea to develop an independent nuclear deterrent.”

To reduce the number of U.S. troops to below 22,000 under the U.S.-ROK Alliance Act, the defense secretary would also have to report to Congress its effect on the deterrence on the Korean Peninsula; anticipated reaction from Pyongyang; the likelihood of Seoul developing its own nuclear deterrent; its impact on long-term military and economic partnership between Washington and both Seoul and Tokyo; and the military balance between the United States, China and Russia.

The bill recognizes that the withdrawal or significant reduction of U.S. troops from Korea “may risk upsetting the military balance in that region” and states that the U.S. Congress should be consulted should there be any significant changes to the status quo.

Under the previous U.S. administration, former U.S. President Donald Trump often used the reduction or withdrawal of U.S. troops from allied countries as a negotiation card. He has also questioned the necessity of the U.S. extended nuclear deterrence in the region.

U.S. President Joe Biden in February ordered Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to conduct a global posture review on the American military’s resources and strategies to best allocate U.S. military forces, which is expected to conclude soon. It is unclear how this review would impact the deployment of U.S. forces in Korea, or whether it could involve the reallocation of some American troops to other areas.

Analysts point out that the Biden administration has not been keen on South Korea’s plans to develop nuclear-powered submarines. The bill’s language reflects concerns in Congress on what a reduced U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula could mean in terms of Seoul’s plans to develop its own nuclear deterrence.

“The U.S.-ROK alliance has been a bedrock of security not only on the Korean Peninsula, but throughout the Indo-Pacific,” said Gallagher in a statement Friday. “I’m proud to stand with this bipartisan group to make clear America will always stand alongside its indispensable ally.”

Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, another sponsor of the bill, said, “This bill sends a clear message to the people of South Korea that the United States will remain a reliable partner, including by maintaining our troop presence for as long as the security of both of our countries demand it.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


Article: https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2021/06/29/national/defense/USFK-US-Forces-Korea-KoreaUS-alliance/20210629171000532.html

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Korea Joongang Daily – Afghans airlifted to Korea to be granted long-term visas

A group of 378 Afghans who worked with the Korean government over the years and their families, including many young children, arrive at Incheon International Airport Thursday afternoon. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

A group of 378 Afghans who worked with the Korean government over the years and their families, including many young children, arrive at Incheon International Airport Thursday afternoon. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

A group of 378 Afghans who worked with the Korean government over the years and their families — including many young children — arrived in Korea Thursday afternoon on a military aircraft.

An additional 13 who couldn’t fit on the first plane will be coming soon.

These Afghans will eventually be granted F-2 long-term residency visas, announced the Justice Ministry Thursday, because of their “special contributions” working for Seoul’s embassy in Kabul or on Korean humanitarian aid projects in Afghanistan. This will require a revision to the current immigration law.

They will be able to freely live and work in the country, equivalent to what refugee status would have granted them.

The Afghans airlifted from Kabul in a speedy operation led by the Korean government landed at Incheon International Airport at 4:24 p.m., according to Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They departed from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad early Thursday on a Korean Air Force KC-330 multi-role aerial tanker, traveling some 9,000 kilometers after being flown out of Kabul on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry revealed Wednesday that the Korean government was in the process of airlifting 391 people from 76 households from Afghanistan.

Nearly half, or some 180, are children under the age of 10, according to a Defense Ministry official, and 100 are under five, including three infants born just this month.

The remaining 13 evacuees from three families were forced to stay in Islamabad because of a lack of space on the KC-330 tanker, which can seat around 330 passengers. They are expected to fly out soon and are under the supervision of the Korean Embassy in Pakistan.

On Monday, the Korean government sent three Air Force planes, the KC-330 and two Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft, to Pakistan to carry out an evacuation plan dubbed “Operation Miracle.” The two C-130Js moved people from Kabul to Islamabad.

The evacuees passed vigorous and sometimes perilous Taliban checkpoints to get to the Kabul airport. The Korean embassy in Afghanistan, in cooperation with friendly countries, helped the evacuees reach their flights on chartered buses.

The Afghan evacuees feared possible retaliations from the Taliban because of their work with Korea and had requested help from the Korean government.

The evacuees were initially expected to depart for Korea late Wednesday, but their departure was delayed to 4:53 a.m. Thursday because of airport security in Islamabad.

Upon arrival at Incheon airport, the Afghans were greeted with applause by Justice Minister Park Beom-kye and other Seoul officials.

The Korean government has stressed that the Afghans are “persons of special merit” rather than refugees.

The evacuees contributed their skills and expertise to Korean government efforts to help rebuild a war-torn Afghanistan over the past two decades, including working for a now shuttered Korea-built hospital and a vocational training center. They worked from anywhere between one and 10 years. The evacuee list included their spouses, children and parents.

The evacuees include medical professionals, IT experts, interpreters and other local staff who worked for the Korean Embassy in Afghanistan, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica), the Korean Hospital in Bagram, the Korean Vocational Training Center and a provincial reconstruction team in Charikar.

The Afghans were to be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival and stay at a temporary accommodation nearby until the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results came out.

Anyone who tests negative will be transferred on chartered buses to the National Human Resources Development Institute in Jincheon, North Chungcheong, where they will undergo a 14-day isolation period and two more Covid-19 tests, standard coronavirus quarantine measures.

The entire group will be housed at the institute’s Leadership Campus for around six weeks, where they will receive education and guidance on resettlement, including classes on Korean language and culture. They will then be able to move to other accommodations prepared by the government.

The Justice Ministry said that these Afghans and their families were initially granted C-3 short-term general visas to land in Korea, which will allow them to stay for up to 90 days. This will immediately be upgraded to F-1 visas, which enable longer-term visits but do not allow for employment.

They are expected to receive F-2 residency visas following their six-week stay at the training institute in Jincheon. The F-2 visa is considered equivalent to refugee status.

An F-2 long-term visa holder can be employed in Korea, live in the country for up to five years and eventually be eligible to apply for an F-5 permanent residency visa. The F-2 visa can be renewed every five years.

In a briefing at the Incheon airport Thursday afternoon, Justice Minister Park said, “Refugees have to go through a complicated application, background check and examination process, but since these individuals have specially contributed to the Korean national interests in Afghanistan, there are plans to provide them with more consideration in terms of living expenses, settlement support and education.”

The Justice Ministry earlier Thursday gave advance notice of a revision to the Immigration Control Act to provide the F-2 long-term visas to people who have worked for the interests of Korea and to allow them to get employed in the country without restrictions. An amendment to the act had already been proposed before the Afghan evacuee situation, and the ministry said this situation hastened the revision process.

Background checks were already conducted on the evacuees prior to their flights to Korea.

Some 40 Justice Ministry officials, four doctors and six nurses will be dispatched at the Jincheon center to help the Afghan evacuees, he added.

Since the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan began in 2001, the Korean government has conducted various military and humanitarian relief operations, including provincial reconstruction team activities from 2010 to 2014 offering medical services and vocational training.

“This is the first example in the history of Korean diplomacy where we have evacuated locals [from a foreign country] by actively investing ours manpower and assets taking into consideration humanitarian concerns,” said Choi Young-sam, spokesman for Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, in a briefing Thursday. “Korea is fulfilling its moral obligation as a responsible nation that does not forget its friends and does not turn away from the difficulties of its neighbors.

The U.S. Department of Defense expressed gratitude to the Korean government for its part in contributing to the evacuation of Afghans.

Referring to Korea’s airlift operation, Maj. Gen. William Taylor, deputy director for regional operations of the Joint Staff, said in a briefing at the Pentagon Wednesday the United States was “extremely grateful for their contribution to increase our outflow.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


Article: https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2021/08/26/national/diplomacy/Afghan-evacuee-Afghanistan/20210826191600475.html

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Yonhap – S. Korea, U.S. wrap up summertime combined exercise amid tensions with N.K.

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States on Thursday concluded a summertime combined exercise conducted amid heightened tensions after North Korea warned of a “serious security crisis” in protest of the regular drills.

The nine-day computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training began on Aug. 16 in a scaled-back manner, mobilizing the minimum level of troops without any outdoor drills, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

“South Korea and the U.S. ended the training after successfully achieving its goal despite the COVID-19 situation,” a JCS official said.

This year’s summertime exercise kicked off amid strong protests from North Korea, with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, blasting the drills as an “unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid.”

Kim Yong-chol, a senior North Korean official, also said the North will make the South “realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice,” raising concerns over a possible military provocation.

But no unusual activities have been detected from the North as of yet, according to the military.

Pyongyang has long railed against such exercises, denouncing them as a rehearsal for invasion, though Seoul and Washington have stressed that they are regular ones that are purely defensive in nature.

During the main exercise, the two sides were again unable to carry out a Full Operational Capability (FOC) test, further dimming prospects for Seoul’s retaking of the wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from Washington at an early date.

An FOC test is a crucial step to check if South Korea is on course to meet conditions required for retaking the OPCON, which has no specific deadline.

It was supposed to be held last year as part of the allies’ combined training, but the two countries failed to do so due to the COVID-19 situation.

Officials said some of the drills this year were conducted under FOC conditions “to maintain the progress on the conditions-based” OPCON transition.

This file photo, taken Aug. 3, 2021, shows military vehicles at U.S. military base Camp Casey in Dongducheon, 40 kilometers north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

This file photo, taken Aug. 3, 2021, shows military vehicles at U.S. military base Camp Casey in Dongducheon, 40 kilometers north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

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Stars & Stripes – ‘Moral responsibility’: South Korea is airlifting hundreds of Afghans out of Kabul

BY DAVID CHOI AND YOO KYONG CHANG

Afghan families walk toward their plane during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. (Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Over 380 Afghans who supported South Korea in Afghanistan before the Taliban seized power are expected to arrive at an airport outside Seoul on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The evacuees include locals who worked at the South Korean embassy in Kabul, hospitals, vocational training centers and provincial reconstruction teams.

They are being flown out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul aboard three South Korean military airplanes, Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choi Jongmoon said during a Wednesday press conference.

Choi cited the country’s “moral responsibility” to house the Afghans given the “serious situations” many of them are under. He added that the evacuees will be entering the country not as refugees, “but people who have done distinguished service to South Korea.”

Some South Korean lawmakers recently said the country ought to act amid the ongoing refugee crisis in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan needs the help of neighboring countries for getting immediate humanitarian aid; however, unfortunately, Europe and many surrounding nations are against accepting refugees from Afghanistan,” Rep. Jang Hye-young of the progressive Justice Party said in a Facebook post Friday.

Jang added: “We need to actively seek a role we can play in a direction, which is solidarity and cooperation on a global level, instead of shifting all burdens of the acceptance of refugees onto countries surrounding Afghanistan.”

Over 3,900 South Korean troops served in Afghanistan, according to a Defense Ministry official who spoke to Stars and Stripes on the customary condition of anonymity Wednesday. One South Korean soldier died after a bomb attack in 2007.

Plans to temporarily relocate evacuees to U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan were scrapped due to logistical and geographical factors, according to a Reuters report on Tuesday.

Over 58,700 people have been flown out of the airport in Kabul since Aug. 14, Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, said during a Pentagon press briefing on Tuesday. Between Monday and Tuesday, 37 U.S. military aircraft transported a daily record of 12,700 people since the operation began, Taylor added.

Roughly 6,000 U.S. troops are deployed to the country to assist in the evacuation.

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern with the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline and dismissed the Taliban’s mandate for a complete withdrawal by that date. The deadline was moved earlier in April, after President Joe Biden extended the withdrawal date from Sept. 11.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, during an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, described the date as a “red line” and warned of “consequences” if it was not met.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reiterated on Tuesday that there was “no way possible” for the U.S. to evacuate all necessary personnel by the deadline.

“Even from our own reporting, from those who are in charge, will tell you they can’t get the job done in that short amount of time,” McCarthy said during a press conference. “Until every American’s out, we should not be working on anything else.”

The Biden administration is “currently on pace” to meet the Aug. 31 deadline, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. But, she added, that “depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport.”

“I am determined to complete our mission,” Biden said in a speech Tuesday.


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Article: https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2021-08-25/afghanistan-evacuees-south-korea-taliban-refugees-2661462.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2008.25.21&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

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U.S. decides not to use military bases in S. Korea for Afghan evacuees: report

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) — The United States decided not to use its military bases in South Korea to temporarily house Afghan evacuees, Reuters reported Tuesday.

U.S. officials “appeared to have figured out better sites” and decided to remove South Korea, as well as Japan, from the list “because of logistics and geography among other reasons,” Reuters reported, citing sources well-versed in the issue.

The U.S. is currently working to transport tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees following the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has yet to comment on the latest report.

In response to an earlier Wall Street Journal report that Washington is considering USFK bases for those evacuees, USFK said, “To date, USFK has not been tasked to provide temporary housing or other support for anyone departing Afghanistan.”

On Monday, South Korea’s National Security Adviser Suh Hoon also said that the U.S. has decided to use its military bases in the Middle East or Europe to house Afghans.

“What has finally been concluded is that the U.S. will use its military bases in the Middle East or Europe in accordance with geographical conditions or conveniences,” he told a parliamentary session.

He added that the Seoul government is reviewing various options to provide refuge to Afghans who worked with South Koreans in Kabul, including the possibility of bringing them to Seoul.

This AP photo shows Afghan people who were transported as part of the evacuation process from Afghanistan walking after disembarking a plane at the Torrejon military base in Madrid on Aug. 23, 2021. (Yonhap)

This AP photo shows Afghan people who were transported as part of the evacuation process from Afghanistan walking after disembarking a plane at the Torrejon military base in Madrid on Aug. 23, 2021. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210824010100325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – Ongoing S. Korea-U.S. exercise optimal for war preparations: defense chief

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) — The ongoing combined military exercise between South Korea and the United States is “optimal” for preparing for contingencies, Seoul’s defense chief said Friday, dismissing concerns that the scaled-down drills would not be enough to maintain a readiness posture.

Seoul and Washington are staging the joint summertime exercise from Monday through next Thursday. The computer-simulated exercise does not include outdoor drills and involves a smaller number of service members than previous ones amid the COVID-19 pandemic and peace efforts involving North Korea.

“The exercise under way by the Combined Forces Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and component commands may be seen as troops doing computer games, but it is being taken under the scenarios very close to real war situations,” Minister Suh Wook said during a parliamentary session.

“Despite unfavorable conditions due to COVID-19, we organized this exercise by making utmost efforts in coordination with the health authorities,” Suh said. “What we are doing is the optimum way of being prepared for a war.”

Critics and some opposition lawmakers have claimed that such scaled-back exercises without outdoor drills will badly affect the combined defense posture, criticizing the government for caring about North Korea too much.

Pyongyang has long bristled at the South Korea-U.S. combined exercises, calling them a rehearsal for invasion. Last week, it lambasted the two nations and warned of a “serious security crisis.”

Since 2019, their major combined exercises, which usually take place twice a year, have not included outdoor drills. The defense ministry has said that outdoor maneuvers have been carried out throughout the year rather than being done intensively at a specific period of time.

This file photo, taken on Aug. 5, 2021, shows military vehicles parked at Camp Casey in the city of Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

This file photo, taken on Aug. 5, 2021, shows military vehicles parked at Camp Casey in the city of Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

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News articles do not necessarily reflect the views of KDVA. Any copyrighted materials depicted on this web site are presented for educational purposes only and no claim of ownership is made by KDVA.
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