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Pentagon sees no dramatic reduction in readiness in S. Korea after postponement of exercises

All News 07:03 March 11, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The Pentagon has not seen a significant reduction in the readiness or ability of its troops in South Korea following the postponement of combined military exercises due to the coronavirus, its spokesman said Tuesday.

Jonathan Hoffman also said during a press briefing that the allies hope to resume some of their scaled-back activities once the outbreak passes on the peninsula.

This AFP file photo shows the Pentagon building in Washington. (Yonhap)

"I think our assessment at this point would be that we've not yet seen any dramatic reduction in readiness or ability of our forces based on COVID-19," he said, adding that the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, Gen. Robert Abrams, has taken aggressive steps to help protect the personnel from exposure.

"That force and the Korean military stepped back from some exercises and some efforts, but the hope is, as the disease passes or the virus passes and we move into warmer weather, that we'll be able to resume some of those efforts," Hoffman said.

The allies announced last month that they would postpone indefinitely combined military exercises planned for early this month over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

South Korea reported 131 new infections on Tuesday, bringing the total in the country to 7,513, but marking the smallest increase in two weeks.

The same day, USFK reported its ninth infection among its 28,500 troops, their family members, and South Korean employees.

Briefing reporters alongside Hoffman, Joint Staff Vice Director Rear Adm. William Byrne Jr. emphasized that while the large force exercises have been canceled or deferred, the allies have been maintaining readiness by continuing training at the staff-to-staff, squadron-to-squadron and small unit-to-unit levels.

Asked if there has been any disruption to U.S. military deployments to South Korea, he said a daily review is under way.

"As far as troops moving in and troops moving out, so we're coming to an agreement across the department as far as personnel movements, especially because the summer move period is coming up soon," Byrne said. "We haven't decided on the department-wide policy yet."

So far, the U.S. Army has ordered its soldiers and their families to stop movement to and from South Korea.

"We've got a number of options that we can work through and it's all risk-based," Hoffman said. "As the situation gets worse or it gets better, we can adjust that. But we do want to do it in a way that protects our personnel, but also helps us ensure that we can continue with the mission."

hague@yna.co.kr
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