Exercise Resumes as Tensions Spike on Korean Peninsula

US commanders in South Korea temporarily suspended the Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2015 exercise in the aftermath of an exchange of artillery fire between North and South Korea on Aug. 20, a senior Pentagon official told reporters on Aug. 21. The suspension was meant to allow US forces time to coordinate with their Republic of Korea counterparts to “get the facts straight and to discuss how… to respond,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear. The US is “very concerned” about North Korean actions since Aug. 4, whe?n two South Korean soldiers were wounded by North Korean mines planted on the South side of the demilitarized zone. The attack prompted the south to restart propaganda broadcasts across the DMZ, which drew angry rhetoric from the North. The North attacked the broadcast facilities with artillery on Aug. 20, prompting a return volley of artillery from South Korea the same day. The shelling came just days after the start of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian command and control drill. As of Friday, the exercise had resumed, said Shear, but the North has threatened further action if broadcasts don’t cease. South Korean forces are now on the highest alert level, according to South Korean press reports. US forces are on an “enhanced” alert status, as a result of the exercise, Shear noted. (Shear transcript.)