Exercises in Korea Long-planned, Sharp Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27, 2010 - Movements of troops in South Korea and ships in the Yellow Sea are part of long-planned exercises and shouldn't be seen as a response to North Korea's Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong Island, the commander of United Nations Command said today.

"Media rhetoric from North Korea, along with images of [South Korean] forces moving on the peninsula may give you a misperception of efforts on the peninsula," Army Gen. Walter "Skip" Sharp said in a community message aimed at Americans living and serving in Korea.

South Korean forces are participating in the previously planned annual Hoguk exercise. The exercises, announced Nov. 16, feature movements of some 70,000 South Korean soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

"The USS George Washington will also participate in a previously planned, combined, training exercise," Sharp said in his message. Neither Hoguk nor the George Washington carrier battle group exercise is in response to Tuesday's attack that killed four people on the island.

South Korean and U.S. forces hold exercises year-round to improve readiness and to ensure a peaceful and safe environment on the peninsula, he said.

Sharp visited Yeongpyeong Island yesterday to assess the damage the unprovoked artillery barrage caused. Analysts are calling the attack one of the most serious since the Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953. The attack killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Combined Forces Command Deputy Commander Gen. Jung Seung-Jo, members of the Swiss and Swedish Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, and members of the UNC Military Armistice Commission accompanied Sharp to the island.

During the visit, the general called on North Korea to refrain from additional attacks and provocative actions, and meet with United Nations Command officials immediately in the truce village of Panmunjom for general officer talks to discuss the incident.

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