Canada sending 15 troops to participate in South Korean, U.S. military exercise
The exercise, called ULCHI Freedom Guardian, is set to begin on Monday.
It’s expected to last until Aug. 31, the Pentagon said in a statement Friday.
Fears about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes have grown in recent weeks, leading to a promise of “fire and fury” from U.S. President Donald Trump for North Korea if the country continues to threaten the U.S.
Pyongyang has said it was considering plans to fire missiles over Japan towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have delayed the decision.
Top U.S. general Joseph Dunsford said on Thursday the United States and South Korea would go ahead with joint military drills next week despite pressure from North Korea and its main ally, China, to halt the contentious exercises that Pyongyang routinely describes as preparation for war.
According to the Department of National Defence (DND), ULCHI Freedom Guardian is an annual international training event designed to “practice scenarios of provocation, regional and international crisis management, and conflict transition on the Korean Peninsula.”
“Approximately 15 CAF personnel, primarily from Canadian Joint Operations Command… will train alongside counterparts from the United States, the Republic of Korea, and other United Nations Command partners to strengthen defensive capabilities in the region,” a spokesperson for the DND confirmed.
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The statement from the Pentagon said about 17,500 U.S. service members will be participating.
“Canada enjoys long-standing relationship with the Republic of Korea dating back to before the Korean War, and Canadian Armed Forces members are proud to contribute to United Nations Command and participate in Exercise ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN,” the DND said.
“Considerations for the safety of all Canadian Armed Forces personnel, including those deployed to Exercise ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN, are at the forefront of our military planning and decision making processes.”
North Korea has fired missiles and taken other steps in response to the war games in the past.
Fire and fury
Tensions have risen after North Korea conducted two missile tests in July which, like its five atomic bomb tests, were carried out in defiance of international pressure and United Nations resolutions.
Trump has vowed not to allow North Korea to develop nuclear missiles that could hit the U.S. mainland but Pyongyang sees its nuclear arsenal as protection against Washington and its partners in Asia.
The new U.S. Ambassador to Japan, William Hagerty, said he had arrived at a difficult time and the United States wanted to work with Japan to “calm the rhetoric” over North Korea.
“Our alliance is rock solid, in fact in my personal view this is the greatest alliance on earth,” he said as he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.
Dunford restated Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to the security of its close Asian ally, Japan, on Friday, telling his counterpart in Tokyo that “an attack on one is an attack on both of us”.
*With files from Reuters
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