The US military is working on continued improvements to its operation plan to evacuate American civilians in case of a war on the Korean Peninsula, Voice of America reported Wednesday.
The US Forces Korea and US Army Pacific are conducting noncombatant evacuation drills on a regular basis to check on the strategic and tactical aspects of the operation, such as designating places of assembly in Korea, said Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for US Army Pacific in Hawaii, according to the US broadcaster.
The US 8th Army in South Korea holds tactical and operational exercises several times a year, and this helps improve the evacuation plan, but more needs to be done considering the level of risk in the event of a war, Garver said.
Adm. Harry Harris, who leads the US Pacific Command, said last week that Hawaii-based Gen. Robert Brown is developing a noncombatant evacuation operation plan for Americans in South Korea in case of a war.
In response to a congressman's comment during a congressional hearing on Feb. 14 that the US doesn't seem to have a good evacuation plan yet, Harris said the planning was "much further along" than it seemed.
"But there is work to be done," Harris said.
"US Army Pacific Gen. Brown and his staff in Hawaii have been charged to develop the NEO plan and see it through fruition."
Mentioning that there are estimated to be more than 200,000 American civilians living and working in South Korea, Harris said "the numbers are staggering."
According to Garver, the US Army Pacific in Hawaii is responsible for developing the military side of the NEO plan in conjunction with the US State Department, which has overall responsibility for the evacuations.
Garver said he couldn't go into the specifics of the plan as they are classified, but noted the US would use a variety of methods and systems to try to move people off the Korean Peninsula in the event of a declaration of a noncombatant evacuation.
United Nations Command spokesman Chad Carroll said biannual drills have long been carried out in the spring and fall to prepare US military families in Korea against all possible contingencies, according to VOA.
Carroll said the UNC has received no instructions or signals regarding the current policy of having families accompany US military members being stationed in South Korea.
There has been media speculation that the US might modify the policy, but no changes have been made for now, VOA said.