- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The perfect combination of rugged terrain, top-tier training facilities, ease of troop movements and exceedingly proficient partner-nation forces makes the Korean Peninsula the perfect place to continue training Marines, said the service’s top officer.

Amid the political rancor at the White House and Pentagon over whether to resume large-scale and smaller, bilateral engagements with South Korean forces, the fact remains the peninsula checks all the training boxes to help keep Marine Corps units ready to fight at a moment’s notice, service Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said Wednesday.

“It’s hot in the summer, the hills are steep and it’s cold in the winter. It is a great place to train,” the four-star general told reporters during a breakfast meeting in Washington.

Aside from the tough terrain, Marine Corps units training alongside their South Korean counterparts have the opportunity to use Seoul’s vast armor and artillery ranges — which surpass in size and scope other locations across the globe where Marine units are deployed, Gen. Neller added.

His comments come months after the Trump White House took the controversial step of suspending several major U.S. war games on the peninsula, as a goodwill gesture toward North Korea, who views the drills as a direct challenge to Pyongyang’s sovereignty.

The move was designed to draw concessions from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on denuclearization and other mandates outlined by Mr. Trump during the two’s landmark June summit in Singapore.

However, White House officials have slammed Pyongyang for not taking any tangible actions toward deunuclearization on the Korean peninsula, despite Washington’s acquiescence to North Korean demands, including the suspension of U.S. military drills.

The Pentagon is poised to carry out large-scale military drills in South Korea including Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, as well as smaller engagements with South Korean forces. But it remains to be seen whether those exercises end up getting shelved, as a result on ongoing talks between Mr. Kim’s regime and the Trump administration.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday heralded ongoing progress in U.S-North Korea relations on a slew of issues, from efforts to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program to closing in on details for a second summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim during his most recent visit to the country.

For his part, Gen. Neller said his forces stand ready to carry out whatever guidance on the future of American military training on the Korean peninsula, despite his affinity for continuing those operations in the region.

“Obviously the sooner we know, the better,” he said of the administration’s decision to either cancel or conduct future training missions in South Korea.

That said, “there are other places we can go [to train] and we can adjust in fairly short order” to any directives that may come down from the White House or Pentagon, he added.


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