.S.-China Crisis: From “Gunboat Diplomacy” to Confrontation
by Rick Rozoff
August 18, 2010
On August 16 the U.S. and its South Korean military ally began this year’s Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises in South Korea. The ten-day warfighting drills involve 56,000 troops from the host country and 30,000 from the U.S. Last year’s version of the annual war games featured the same amount of South Korean soldiers but only a third as many American troops, 10,000. The commander in charge of the American forces, General Walter Sharp, described the current exercise as “one of the largest joint staff directed theater exercises in the world.” In all over 500,000 South Korean military and government participants are involved. 
Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2010 is the latest and largest in a series of almost uninterrupted war games and naval maneuvers conducted over the past five weeks in the region: The Korean Peninsula, the seas on either side of it, and the South China Sea.
Three of the four nations involved are regional actors: South Korea, China and Vietnam. The other is not: The United States.
Washington led the four-day Invincible Spirit joint war games with South Korea in the Sea of Japan off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula from July 25-28, which were highlighted by the participation of the almost 100,000-ton nuclear-powered supercarrier USS George Washington among 20 warships, 200 warplanes including F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, and 8,000 troops. A Chinese news agency said of the exercises that “they were no ordinary war games” but “were unprecedented in the past three decades both in terms of scale and weaponry. The resources involved were said to be enough for launching a full-scale war….”
“The US-South Korean war games were said to be aimed at preventing a repeat of incidents like the sinking of South Korea’s Cheonan warship and maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula. However, the war games were more than enough to intimidate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea….They were actually a show of force against China….” 
After their completion, the South Korean government announced that the U.S. and Seoul will conduct “a joint military exercise every month until the end of the year.”