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SEOUL — It was unclear Monday how much of the ongoing U.S.-South Korea Foal Eagle exercise will go on as planned in light of last week’s earthquake in Japan.

“We’re still determining which portions of the exercise will continue,” U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten said Monday afternoon.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said officials have not discussed the future of Foal Eagle with USFK.

Foal Eagle is the field exercise portion of the annual spring exercise and is scheduled to end on April 30. Key Resolve, the computer simulation portion, ended Thursday, one day before the quake hit.

One of the expected major players in the exercise, the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, was en route to South Korea to participate in Foal Eagle, but was diverted to Japan to participate in relief efforts.

U.S. forces in Korea have played a small role so far in rescue or humanitarian efforts.

Over the weekend, the Sasebo, Japan-based USS Tortuga picked up heavy-lift helicopters near Pohang, South Korea, and the dock-landing ship was then heading to Japan.

Also, U-2 “Dragonlady” stationed at Osan Air Base flew over Japan Sunday and took high-resolution images of its land mass and littorals, which will help officials determine the location and extent of the earthquake and tsunami damage.

On Monday, the 7th Air Force flew 24 generators to Misawa Air Base in northern Japan and planned to fly another 37 generators to the base on Tuesday.

“At this time, we’re just in a ready posture to support (relief efforts),” said 7th Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Denise Kerr.

U.S. troops are rarely deployed in significant numbers from South Korea, and suggestions of doing so have previously been met with concern by some South Korean officials, who fear deployments could leave the country more vulnerable to a North Korean attack.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops in South Korea have been ordered to limit their internet usage on government-owned computers, to the point of writing shorter e-mails with no attachments, in case bandwidth is needed for emergency response efforts.

U.S. Forces in Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp ordered the restrictions just days after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, where approximately 86,000 U.S. troops, family members and civilian workers are stationed.

U.S. forces are heavily involved in rescue efforts there.

In a message posted Monday morning on the command website, Sharp said that communications in South Korea are operating normally, but a “significant aftereffect of this event is reduced connectivity to communications networks.”

“These measures are necessary to ensure we have sufficient bandwidth available for mission-essential communications,” he said.

The restrictions on government-owned computers include:

-- Minimal e-mail attachments, including PowerPoint. If attachments must be used, they should be no larger than 3 MB.

-- A ban on accessing all social media websites including Facebook, Twitter, commercial e-mail, streaming media websites and portals.

-- A ban on non-essential domains including “.com,” “.org,” and “.net.” Access to “.mil” domains hosted outside South Korea should be limited to mission-essential purposes only.

-- Network use for vital communications only. Routine messages should be sent during the non-peak hours of 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. in South Korea.

Sharp also encouraged the use of short e-mails instead of phone calls made to off-peninsula locations.

The restrictions will be enforced by leadership, he said, and exceptions to the restrictions would be granted only with “compelling justification.”

Sharp said restoration of normal network operations likely take “a number of weeks.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.


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