U.S. – South Korean combined military drill postponed over coronavirus outbreak: officials

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South Korean Marines take part in a military exercise on April 5, 2018 in Pohang, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

South Korean Marines take part in a military exercise on April 5, 2018 in Pohang, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The U.S. and South Korean militaries announced Thursday that they will postpone a command post training exercise due to growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in South Korea, which has infected 25 members of the South Korean military and one U.S. servicemember.

“The Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance has decided to postpone the joint combined command post training planned for the first half of this year until further notice, as the South Korean government has raised the alert level to the highest level due to COVID-19,” Kim Joon-Rak, a spokesman for the South Korean military’s Joint Chief of Staff said at a news conference Thursday, using the official name for the virus.

“The containment efforts of COVID-19 and the safety of (Republic of Korea) and U.S. service members were prioritized in making this decision,” US Army Col. Lee Peters, a spokesman for US Forces Korea, said Thursday.

South Korea has recently confirmed 334 additional cases of novel coronavirus across the country, bringing the national total of confirmed cases to 1,595, according to the South Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Those figures include 25 members of the South Korean military, according to the South Korean defense ministry.

One U.S. servicemember serving as part of the 28,000-strong American contingent in South Korea has also tested positive for the coronavirus and has been placed in quarantine.

A widow of a former servicemember serving with U.S.-Forces Korea and a South Korean national who was working at U.S. installations in Korea have also tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The U.S. and South Korean defense ministers had said Tuesday that they were considering postponing the exercises due to concerns about the coronavirus.

In a statement Thursday, U.S. Forces-Korea said that the U.S. and South Korean militaries “commitment to the ROK-US alliance remains ironclad and unbreakable, and the decision to postpone the combined training was not taken lightly.”

On Wednesday the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees all U.S. troops in the region, restricted all non-essential travel to South Korea for all U.S. servicemembers, contractors and defense department civilians serving as part of the command.

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