SEOUL— The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. The soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
The combined U.S. and South Korean armies staged a mock attack that involved 14 helicopters, ten armored vehicles and 300 soldiers, all firing live rounds, at a U.S. artillery range in Pocheon, about six kilometers from the North Korean border.
The coordinated assault was combined with an orchestrated photo op and a carefully controlled message for the media that emphasized the purpose of the drills and the strong military alliance between the two countries.
Lieutenant Colonel Neal Mayo with the 27th Infantry Regiment is co-commander of the exercise. “It’s a demonstration of our partnership its also a demonstration of our increased readiness that we have made over the course of the last several weeks,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Jang Hyun-soo, the South Korean co-commander of the exercise, said, “Based on this experience, this stronger exercise, it was an opportunity to maintain combat capability and increase readiness.”
Even foot soldiers like Specialist Daniel Salinaz stayed on message no matter the question put to them.
“As we came here to make a partnership with the Koreans, we really just focused umm, on improving the confidence between the two allied forces,” he said.
This carefully constructed, often repeated script is seemingly meant to not further inflame tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea has protested these drills as provocative rehearsals for a possible invasion and cited them as the reason for their increased military maneuvers and missile tests.
So close to the highly militarized and hostile border, U.S. and South Korean forces know there is little they can say to reduce tensions at the same time they are conducting mock attacks, so they opt to say little.
VOA Seoul Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.