The US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Marine Corps have officially commenced the bilateral exercise Freedom Shield 2023.

The annual exercise is conducted to solidify the combined defensive capabilities of the US-ROK forces to operate effectively in the ever-changing security environment.

Deployed units from the US Marine Corps (USMC) include III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) in Okinawa, Japan, and the 1st Marine Division, I MEF.

The participating US marines leveraged different transportation modes, including the KC-130J tanker aircraft and high-speed transport vessel USNS Guam (T-HST-1), to reach home stations in South Korea.

As part of this exercise, the participating USMC units will create a combined marine component command (CMCC) with their South Korean counterparts.

This CMCC is formed to provide a flexible option to the commanders for the projection of forces from the sea for safeguarding the Korean peninsula, whenever required.

Under this CMCC, the forces will rehearse force-wide command and control activities in a series of realistic computer-based scenarios to learn how to minimise response time during times of crisis.

USMC lead planner major Patrick Majeski said: “This exercise showcases III MEF’s posture by projecting power from multiple locations to enhance the integrated defence of our allies and partners as a stand-in force for the Indo-Pacific.”

Just a day before the commencement of US-ROK bilateral drills on 12 March, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) test-launched two ‘strategic cruise missiles’ from the Gyeongpo Mansu area of the Korean East Sea.

This was reported on 13 March by the Korean Central News Agency, whose report claimed that the exercise aimed to showcase the readiness and capabilities of DPRK’s armed forces to respond to the ‘anti-republic military manoeuvres’ of the US and South Korea.