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SEOUL — Combined Forces Command officials announced late Thursday that the upcoming Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise will take place Aug. 18-22.

In previous years, the annual exercise was called Ulchi Focus Lens; however, CFC officials announced a name change last year.

Officials had said the change reflected U.S. Forces Korea’s changing role on the peninsula.

According to a CFC press release, this year marks the first time in the exercise’s 34-year history that the South Korean military will take the lead role, while the U.S. military takes a supporting role.

"This is the first step towards [operational control] transfer in 2012," said U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Dave Palmer. "Future UFGs leading up to OPCON transfer will continue to build upon lessons learned and enable the two countries to define the proper organizational structures and roles and responsibilities."

A spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said the Korean military has trained closely with its U.S. counterparts to prepare for the exercise and is ready to take the lead.

Despite the change of roles, both U.S. and South Korean officials said there will be no difference in the way the exercise is carried out.

UFG uses computer-simulated scenarios to test the abilities of both South Korea and the United States to respond to contingencies on the peninsula.

According to the CFC news release, the United Nations Command has informed the North Korean military about the exercise, and assured them it is defensive in nature.

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