S. Korean-US to resume marine exercise

Seoul, South Korea and the United States will resume this week battalion-level marine exercises that were delayed as part of efforts to help facilitate a detente with North Korea, Seoul military officials said today.

The two marine forces will begin joint training lasting two weeks around the southeastern port city of Pohang on Monday. It will involve 500 troops from the South Korean Marine Corps and the US III Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Okinawa.

The Korea Marine Exercise Programme (KMEP) exercise has been suspended for six months since May as the two countries engaged in diplomacy with North Korea, South Korean News Agency (Yonhap) reported.

The allies had planned to carry out 19 rounds of KMEP training in fiscal 2018 (from October 2017 to September 2018) but only 11 were conducted.

They plan to hold 24 rounds in fiscal 2019 (from October 2018 to September 2019), the Marine Corps told the parliament on October 19.

The KMEP was conducted 14 times in fiscal 2016 and 17 times in fiscal 2017.

"The KMEP will start from November in accordance with the South Korea-US annual plan," a Marine official said.

"It is an annual tactical combined forces training aimed at maintaining our joint defense posture."

This year, the two sides have suspended major military exercises, including the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises over the summer and the Vigilant Ace air drill slated for December.

They will decide on the fate of next year's large-scale exercises before December 1 after a working-level review, South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said on October 31 following the annual Security Consultative Meeting with US Defence Secretary James Mattis in Washington.

Source: Bahrain News Agency