Asia Minute: U.S. and South Korea Engage on Defense and Trade

Aug 21, 2017

Credit U.S. Department of Defense

This week, U.S. and South Korean forces will take part in annual military exercises. While they happen every year, these drill are getting more attention than usual. And they’re not the only interaction this week between the U.S. and South Korea. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The military exercises are called “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” and will last through the end of the month.

Last year’s involved some 25,000 U.S. forces and about twice that number from South Korea.

The South Korean Air Force general who’s in line to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says there are no plans to scale back this year’s version.

In a news release, the Pentagon said approximately 17,500 U.S. service members will participate in what it describes as a “computer simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula.”

This is not the largest annual exercise the two allies conduct—a springtime set is even bigger.

But it’s the timing that is drawing attention, and comment from Pyongyang.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency has called them “reckless saber-rattling.”

A different sort of international gathering will get underway in Seoul on Tuesday—this one focused on trade.

The United States wants to discuss “possible amendments and modifications” to the five year old U.S. Korea Free Trade Agreement.

The Seoul government says the deal has been good for both countries, while the Trump Administration points to a growing trade deficit between the United States and South Korea as evidence that the trade relationship needs some adjustments.