South Korea, US should resume joint drills: Ex-US commander

Choi Si-young

KOREA HERALD/ANN – South Korea and the United States (US) should resume large-scale joint military exercises to make North Korea realise it is overstepping, said Vincent Brooks, who headed the 28,500-strong combined forces command of Seoul and Washington.

“Now is a good time to say we’re going to go through with the exercise here in late summer,” Brooks said on Wednesday, two days after the North demolished an inter-Korean liaison office amid escalating tensions on the peninsula prompted by the contentious anti-Pyongyang leaflets defectors flew there from Seoul.

The North warned of deploying troops to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) as well as to the joint factory complex and Kumgangsan resort facilities, all of which are near the border.

“The exercises would no longer be a matter that we want to discuss with North Korea – simply not going to be a matter they’re going to have any influence over hereafter,” Brooks added during an online forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington David Maxwell told The Korea Herald he fully supported moves to “reinitiate full-scale combined exercises” in a “strategic strangulation campaign” against Pyongyang.

Vincent Brooks. PHOTO: KOREA HERALD/ANN
A general view shows the North Korea behind the barbed-wire fence of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. PHOTO: AFP

He served on the combined forces command and co-authored plans on Pyongyang’s instability and collapse.

Meanwhile other analysts advised Seoul to follow a more cautious approach.

Senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Robert Manning told the Voice of America, “My advice is to not take the bait. As long as Kim stays on his side of the DMZ and is not shooting, ignore them. I see no benefit to either the US and ROK in responding,” using South Korea’s official name, Republic of Korea.

“While I favour resoluteness, I don’t favour going into the DMZ ourselves right now,” said Michael O’Hanlon, another senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

The analyst said Washington should resurrect diplomacy with a “realistic strategy” so a nuclear-armed Pyongyang understands what to expect from a successful deal.

Experts were divided over when the tensions on the peninsula would subside, with some saying Seoul’s surrender to Pyongyang’s demands would most likely bring them down.

“I really hope that is not what the South decides to do,” Senior Defense Analyst at RAND Corp Bruce Bennett told The Korea Herald.