ROK's annual closing exercise involves more US military participation

China Military Online
Chen Zhuo
2023-11-13 17:20:55

By Li Fuming and Li Ning

ROK's army, navy and air force held a large-scale exercise codenamed Hoguk at major training grounds across the country and in surrounding sea and airspace from October 16 to November 22. The scale and duration of this exercise are the largest in history, and the scenarios for US military intervention have also been significantly increased. Analysts pointed out that the Yoon Suk-yeol government's clinging to Washington will intensify the trend of regional camp politics and undermine regional peace and stability. 

Unlike those previous drlls where the US military used to send observers and trainers to commanding-related subjects, the number of US military participants has increased significantly this year. Before the exercise, the US dispatched strategic bombers, aircraft carrier groups and F-22 stealth fighter jets to the ROK.

During the exercise, in the name of participating in the Vigilant Defense routine air exercise, the US Air Force deployed a batch of F-35A fighter jets and EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft to conduct joint air combat exercises with the ROK armed forces, which has in fact boosted the momentum of the Hoguk exercise.

During the maritime exercises, the US Navy simultaneously held joint anti-special operations, joint anti-submarine and other exercises in the waters surrounding the ROK. The guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn, P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft, and Apache armed helicopters participated in the drill on key subjects. The US military stationed in the ROK also participated in drills on subjects such as situational awareness and air defense early warning to provide information warfare support to the ROK.

In addition, the US military has assembled two aircraft carrier strike groups in the Western Pacific near the ROK and is conducting a high-profile "quasi-three-aircraft carrier" exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier. It cannotbe ruled out that after the exercise, the US ship formation will continue to deploy to the periphery of the Korean peninsula to support the coordinated landing exercises in the final stage of Hoguk.

The Yoon Suk-yeol government thatpursues a pro-American foreign policy hopes to deepen its defense relations with the US through joint military exercises and is acting as the spokesperson for the US in Northeast Asia and even the "Indo-Pacific region". Its introduction of US military elements into its annual final exercise exposed its attitude of blindly following the lead of the US.

Since Yoon Suk-yeol came into power, the support rate for his government has been low and the public opinion base has been weak. Exaggerating national security threats, deepening alliances with the US, and consolidating joint defense posture are his usual methods of boosting public opinion. However, these palliative approaches can only relieve the pressure on governance in the short term, and is difficult to solve the problem fundamentally. The ROK has continuously increased the scale of exercises and promoted the upgrade of its armaments on the pretext of addressing security threats, which will only intensify the regional confrontation situation.

There have been continuous military exercises between the US and the ROK recently, in which the US played the role of commander, trainer, and partner in different types of exercises. In fact, promoting allies to act as "pawns" through similar measures is an important part of the US "Indo-Pacific strategy". It should be pointed out that the relevant actions of the US and the ROK have drawn opposition and protests from people in the region, including the ROK. There were anti-war groups gathering outside the US military camp in the ROK to hold protests during the Hoguk exercise.

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