By JUNG SUNG-KI, Defense News, July 25, 2009
SEOUL - South Korea and the United States will kick off their annual computerized joint military exercise aimed at improving interoperability next month, the Combine Forces Command (CFC) here said July 24.
The Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), formerly known as Ulchi Focus Lens, will be held from Aug. 17-27, the command said in a news release.
About 56,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 American troops will take part in the command and control, war-fighting exercise, a CFC spokesman said. (Some 30,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in S. Korea -ACFJ)
The forthcoming exercise will be the second one in which South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff will serve in a leading role with the U.S. Forces Korea serving in a supporting role, in rehearsal training for the planned transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. military to Korean commanders.
Under a 2007 agreement on command rearrangements, the U.S.-led CFC will be deactivated in April 17, 2012. The militaries will then launch separate theater commands.
"UFG 09, as with all other CFC exercises, is a defense oriented exercise designed to improve the alliance's ability to defend the ROK against external aggression," the release said. "United Nations Command has informed the Korean People's Army in North Korea about UFG 09 and assured them that this is a defensive military readiness exercise, and that is not meant to be provocative in any way."
North Korea regularly denounces joint military drills by South Korea and the United States, calling them as a rehearsal for invasion.