(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. Marines develop 5-year plan to bolster combined amphibious exercises
(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in 8th para)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. Marine Corps have developed a five-year plan to strengthen combined amphibious landing exercises, a U.S. military unit here said Wednesday, amid the allies' move to sharpen deterrence against evolving North Korean threats.
The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Korea (MARFOR-K) revealed the formulation of the allies' training program, as Seoul and Washington are stepping up security cooperation amid concerns about the possibility of Pyongyang conducting a nuclear test or other provocations.
"USMC and ROKMC have developed a combined five-year exercise training plan. This five-year plan seeks to continue building upon our current limited scale exercises and works towards multiple large scale combined amphibious exercises," MARFOR-K spokesperson 1st Lt. Austin Gallegos told Yonhap News Agency.
USMC and ROKMC refer to the U.S. Marine Corps and Republic of Korea Marine Corps, respectively. ROK is the acronym of South Korea's official name.
The spokesperson added the allies' Marine forces will work toward large-scale exercises, also involving their Navy fellows, starting in the fiscal year 2023 or in October. He did not elaborate on other details.
"Training is a routine event conducted by all professional militaries to maintain proficiency," he said. "All ROK-U.S. alliance exercises are defensive in nature and are not connected to any current events."
Since 2018, the allies' combined marine exercises have been conducted on a smaller scale due in part to a set of reasons, including the two countries' diplomatic efforts to engage with the North and the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the plan to reinforce combined Marine drills, the allies plan to resume the Ssangyong (double dragon) Exercise next year, according to a Seoul official. It has not been held since 2018.
In a sign of the allies' move to beef up their Marine exercises and their communication volume, the U.S. military revealed Wednesday that America's elite Marines joined a combined military training with South Korean troops last week.
Troops of the 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, tasked with fire support and coordination on the battlefields, joined the allies' Korea Marine Exercise Program (KMEP). It was rare for the U.S. military to reveal core activities of their combined training in recent years.
"KMEP demonstrates the ROK-U.S. commitment to peace and security on the Korean peninsula, and in the Indo-Pacific region," Gallegos said.
The two countries' Marines engage in 15 to 30 KMEP exercises each year. This year, they have carried out 20 KMEP cases.
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