U.S. and S. Korea Begin ''Routine, Defense-Oriented`` Joint Military Exercise

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seoul- (PanOrient News) The United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) today started their annual ''routine and defense-oriented,'' joint military exercise, Unchi Freedom Guardian, designed to "strengthens U.S. and ROK forces' interoperability and capability to defend the ROK through field exercises and cyber scenarios," U.S. Navy said.

More than 530,000 troops will take part in the computer-assisted simulation command post exercise, which will run through Aug. 26. USS Blue Ridge arrived in Busan, ROK, on Aug. 13, and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet Sailors are directly engaged in the annual exercise.

North Korea reportedly called the drills an ''extremely provocative northward aggression exercise'' and urged that it be cancelled.

''It is challenging and realistic training focused on preparing, preventing and prevailing against the full range of current future external threats to the Republic of Korea and the region,'' Gen. James Thurman, commander of the Combined Forces Command said.

"The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the ROK-U.S. alliance and enhance the combat readiness of ROK and U.S. supporting forces through combined and joint training," said Blue Ridge's Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Ralston. "...our Sailors will work closely with their ROK military counterparts to build upon relationships vital to achieving our shared goals.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force and is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

Photo: Sailors aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) wave to Republic of Korea navy sailors as the ship pulls into Busan to participate in Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2011.

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