8th Army Commander Apologizes for .50 Cal Rounds Found Outside Rodriguez Range

Here is the latest complaints from residents who live outside of Rodriguez Range that the 8th Army commander had to apologize for:

A pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks from Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment train at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

A top U.S. commander has apologized to a South Korean mayor for stray ammunition rounds found outside a sprawling training complex near the tense frontier that divides the peninsula.

Lt. Gen. Michael Bills, the Eighth Army’s new commander, made the comments Thursday during an office call with the mayor of Pocheon, the area that is home to Rodriguez Live Fire Range.

“During the meeting he apologized for the Jan. 3 incident that resulted in several ammunition rounds being found in a [South Korean army] motorpool” near the U.S. complex, the Eighth Army public affairs office told Stars and Stripes Friday in an email.

“He reinforced that the safety of the citizens of our host nation is a top priority,” it added.

More than 10 .50-caliber rounds were discovered at the South Korean base, weeks after the U.S. command hosted a town-hall meeting in Pocheon to address public outrage after a bullet from the range was found inside a local home in November.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but from the article it is unclear if these were just stray rounds accidentally left on the ROK base or actual fired rounds.  If these were just stray rounds accidentally left in the ROK base I don’t see what the residents are complaining about since it is not a danger to them?

North Korea Wants an End to All US-ROK Military Exercises

Here is the least surprising news of the week:

North Korea’s propaganda outlet called for the total suspension of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States on Friday, in response to the allies’ decision to delay them until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The North’s website Uriminzokkiri said that dialogue and a “war rehearsal” cannot go together, calling the exercises the source of catastrophe for the Korean Peninsula.

“They should totally stop the military drills, not just delay them,” it said in a commentary.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link, but this all goes back to North Korea’s strategy of separating the ROK from the US.  Ending the ROK-US military drills using nuclear coercion is one of the ways they are trying to do this.

After the completion of the Olympics, if the delayed Key Resolve exercise is not cancelled, the Kim regime can then use it as an excuse to start another provocation cycle.  That is why I fully expect there will be another launch in the spring timeframe.  What else that won’t be surprising is that all the usual suspects in the western media will be out blaming President Trump for the return of the provocation cycle.

Picture of the Day: Outgoing US Naval Commander In Korea Receives Medal

Outgoing U.S. naval commander awarded S. Korean medal

Adm. Um Hyun-seong (R), South Korea’s chief of naval operations, poses for a photo with Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea, after giving Cooper a medal at a ceremony in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2018, in this photo released by the Navy. Cooper was given the Cheonsu Medal, the third-highest honor in the five-tier Order of National Security Merit, in recognition of his contribution to the alliance between the two countries. (Yonhap)

Picture of the Day: Eighth Army Change of Command

Change of command at U.S. 8th Army

Lt. Gen. Michael Bills (L), the new commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, receives the Eighth Army flag from his predecessor Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal during a ceremony at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, on Jan. 5, 2018, to mark his inauguration and his predecessor’s departure. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

US and ROK Presidents Agree to Delay Joint Military Exercise Until After the Winter Olympics

It looks like the upcoming Key Resolve exercise will be delayed if North Korea does not cause any more provocations:

This photo provided courtesy of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed Thursday to delay their countries’ regular joint military exercises during the Winter Olympic Games to be held here next month.

The agreement came in a telephone conversation between the two leaders, according to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The tentative agreement came at a request from the South Korean leader.

“I believe it would greatly help ensure the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games if you could express an intention to delay joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises during the Olympics in case the North does not make any more provocations,” Moon was quoted as telling Trump.

The U.S. president agreed, saying Moon may tell North Korea that there will be no military exercises during the Olympics, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

In a press release, the White House confirmed the leaders agreed to “de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the Olympics are in February and the Key Resolve exercise is typically executed in March so it was not like both events were overlapping.  However, preparations and personnel movements do happen in February and a shift of Key Resolve will provide the ROK military more time to focus on Olympic security before executing the exercise.

I guess the big question becomes what happens if North Korea commits a provocation like a missile test? Does Key Resolve get executed at the original time?  I would not be surprised if North Korea does a more ambiguous provocation like a space launch just to create tension in the US-ROK alliance over what to do in response.

US and ROK Marines Frolic in the Snow at Winter Olympic Site

Only in Korea does the holiday season mean that once again we get to see the annual pictures of half naked Marines frolicking in the snow:

U.S. and South Korean Marines get airborne during a short workout at Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

About 400 U.S. and South Korean Marines took a break from honing their winter-warfare skills Tuesday for some friendly competition in the city that will host the upcoming Winter Olympics.

After doffing their shirts and yelling half-naked in the snow, the allies teamed up to battle each other in chicken fights, relay races and a free-for-all wrestling match.

It was a bit of levity to wrap up a tense year on the Korean Peninsula that saw more than 20 North Korean ballistic-missile tests, two underground nuclear blasts and an ongoing bitter war of words between Washington and Pyongyang.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

USFK Warns of Insider Threat After North Korean Propaganda Found on US Bases

It will be interesting to see if through CCTV or witnesses that the US military investigators will be able to track down who left the propaganda on the US bases:

U.S. Forces Korea is warning servicemembers on the peninsula to stay alert to potential insider threats after North Korean propaganda appeared on American bases.

The 8th Army reported that propaganda leaflets were discovered at Seoul’s Yongsan Garrison Thursday, shortly after a North Korean soldier defected across the heavily fortified border just north of the South Korean capital.

In an alert posted later that day on USFK’s Facebook page, officials said a significant number of North Korean propaganda leaflets and CDs had been placed at strategic locations on multiple U.S. military installations in South Korea.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but I would not be surprised if the propaganda was left by a sympathetic South Korean leftist with base access instead of a North Korean spy.

The Key Resolve 2018 Exercise Will Only Be Delayed If North Korea Stops Provocations

Here is the latest on the idea floated by President Moon to delay the annual Key Resolve military exercise:

South Korea and the United States may delay their joint military exercises only for the duration of the Winter Olympic Games to be held here next year and if the North halts its military provocations, a ranking South Korean official said Wednesday.

The remarks came one day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in an interview with U.S. broadcaster NBC he has proposed delaying the military drills, which North Korea accuses of a war rehearsal, as part of efforts to reduce tensions during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

Such a proposal, however, “is limited to holding the Olympic Games peacefully,” an official from the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said, while speaking on condition of anonymity.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link, but Key Resolve is typically executed every March.  Whatever the delay is cannot be too long because of the summer change over of personnel in USFK that begins in June plus the next military exercise UFG 2018 is typically executed each August.

Here is what USFK’s position on the delay is:

The United States forces stationed in South Korea said Wednesday it is committed to the two countries’ decision on whether to delay their annual military drills and announce their final decision in an appropriate time.

“We want the PyeongChang Olympics to be successful and have committed to our ally that we will aid their success,” the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) said in a short press release. The CFC is led by Vincent Brooks, the commanding general of the U.S. Forces Korea.  [Yonhap]

I guess we will see what happens in the coming months.

USFK Soldier Killed in Traffic Accident Near Camp Humphreys

Condolences to the friends and family of the USFK soldier killed in a recent traffic accident in South Korea:

A U.S. soldier from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade in South Korea was killed in a vehicle accident, police said Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.

A U.S. soldier was killed when a truck slammed into a military ambulance and a car that had pulled over to the side of a highway after an earlier collision south of Seoul, officials said Friday.

The Eighth Army confirmed that a 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade soldier died of injuries suffered in a vehicle accident. The soldier was not further identified pending family notification.

“Medical aid was provided on the scene until the soldier was transported via ambulance to the Good Morning Hospital,” the 8th Army said in a statement. “The incident is under investigation.” (…..)

The deadly chain of events began when a car rear-ended the U.S. military vehicle on an interchange, prompting the soldier to get out to examine the damage. An 8-ton cargo truck then slammed into them, according to the regional fire service.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but imagine what the response would have been if it was a US soldier that killed a Korean civilian in a traffic accident?  The usual suspects would be protesting and demanding apologies from the US President.

Pentagon Says It Has No Plans to Move US Military Dependents Out of South Korea

In response to Senator Lindsey Graham’s recent comment that the Pentagon should consider moving military dependents out of Korea, the Defense Department says they have no plans to do so:

The United States currently has no plan to move military dependents out of South Korea despite rising tensions with North Korea, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter North Korean aggression after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Commenting on North Korea’s latest launch of a long-range missile last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued Sunday that the U.S. should stop sending military dependents to South Korea and transfer those that are already there.

“The Department of Defense currently has no intent to initiate departures for military dependents, whether on a voluntary or mandatory basis, and no intent to modify the policy authorizing military dependents to accompany military members being stationed in South Korea,” Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in emailed remarks to Yonhap.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link.