Joint drill to test S. Korea's readiness for full troop control

Alec Trek, July 11, 2019, 9:31 a.m.

A joint drill slated for early August will test South Korea's readiness to take over wartime operational control of troops from the U.S.

The "Alliance 19-2" will take place from Aug. 5 to 23, a government source said on Wednesday. But the source added the government is still nervous of upsetting North Korea and does not want to draw to much attention to the drill.

The North has called for a complete halt to South Korea-U.S. military exercises and denounced the new drill as an "attempt to create a warlike atmosphere."

Some officers worry that the drill could be canceled after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met U.S. President Donald Trump in the demilitarized zone last month.

But the takeover of full operational control of South Korean troops is one of the Moon Jae-in administration's top security priorities, so the drill will have to be staged sooner or later.

It replaces the annual "Freedom Guardian" drill. It will test South Korea's operational capability and will be run by a joint command along the lines of a future replacement under South Korean leadership of the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command.

The new command will be led by Gen. Park Han-ki, the chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, taking the deputy post.

The Moon administration has set a goal to take over full operational control by May 2022.

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