Australian Defence personnel have contributed to developing the role of the United Nations Command in the defence of the Republic of Korea (ROK) during this year’s Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG).
25 representatives of all three services and Defence civilians joined two permanently assigned ADF officers at bases across ROK and Japan for the complex computer-simulated defensive exercise.
Named after the infamous 7th Century Korean General Eulji Mundeok, who defended the Kingdom of Goguryeo from the invading Sui Empire, UFG is designed to enhance the readiness of the ROK-US Alliance, supported by United Nations Command (UNC) Sending States permanent staff and augmentees.
This year, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom attended UFG, while representatives of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission observers monitored the exercise to ensure its compliance with the Armistice Agreement of 1953.
The UNC also featured US military leadership and staff, as the UNC remains a US-led multinational force in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 84.
Captain Bernard York, RAN, Commander Australian Contingent, said that the UNC reflects the global support given to the protection of South Korea.
“The membership of the UNC still contains nations which stood by South Korea during the devastating 1950-53 war,” he said.
“This exercise allows us to continue to work together as a coherent multinational force to assist in the maintenance of the armistice on the Korean Peninsula.”
Captain York said the ADF participation helps to develop Australia’s regular and long-standing bilateral defence engagement with the ROK.
“South Korea is a major trading partner with Australia, and our defence ties go back to the Korean War,” he said.
“The security of Korean Peninsula is critical to the stability of North East Asia, where Australia has significant involvement and interests.
“The exercise also highlights the contribution of Japan, which for decades has agreed to provide the UNC-Rear component access to US bases in Japan for the logistical movement of forces and material to aid South Korea.”
Australia initially sent three personnel to UFG in 2010 and, like other Sending States, has progressively grown its contribution over recent years.
UFG allows the Sending States to shape the UNC as an integrated headquarters, developing its roles and responsibilities in case of a security crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
The UNC’s first role would likely be to assist in the non-combatant evacuations of the hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals living in South Korea, which would allow the ROK Government to focus on the safety of its own citizens.
The second role would be the defence of South Korea, where UNC Sending States and the ROK-US Alliance would discuss what contributions the Sending States could make in terms of fighting forces and material support, with the understanding that none of the Sending States have standing obligations to do so.
UNC Deputy Director of Operations, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Follwell (Canada) said that the UNC’s contribution highlights the international resolve to deter future aggression against the ROK.
“The Sending States, through their commitment to the UNC, represent the world’s continued commitment to peace and security in North-East Asia,” he said.
“It is this global steadfastness that proves the international community stands alongside South Korea and will help protect it from resumption in hostilities by its northern neighbour.”