South Korea: Joint US drills suspended to aid talks with North

Hannah Rogers
June 21, 2018

The cancellation of the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian military exercise was done to maintain diplomatic momentum for peace following recent summits between the USA and North Korea and the South and North.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo will sit down for talks with his USA counterpart James Mattis in Seoul next Thursday.

However, in a sign Seoul may be open to suspending drills, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday his government would need to be flexible when it came to applying military pressure on North Korea if it was honest about denuclearization.

The announcement was widely anticipated following Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week. -North Korea summit and next steps following the suspension of the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises. -South Korea joint military exercise held at the end of August.

South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff also announced on Wednesday that Seoul would postpone its annual command post drill called the Taeguk Exercise, scheduled to begin next Tuesday, MBC reported.

Choi echoed that nothing has been decided on other exercises.

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Ahead of his trip to South Korea, US Defense Secretary Mattis will visit China.

Still, the USA -initiated decision to shelve the drills isn't likely to dramatically change the psyche of South Koreans who have spent their entire lives facing North Korean threats and living through wild swings in inter-Korean relations.

The drill's suspension would have been unthinkable a year ago, when North Korea sharply raised animosity with a torrid run of nuclear and long-range missile tests that put the country closer to acquiring a nuclear arsenal capable of targeting the US mainland.

In an unusual move, Chinese state media announced Kim's visit and said he would stay for two days.

North Korea proposed to Seoul to disarm, on a trial basis, the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, the only site in the DMZ where both countries' soldiers stand nearly face to face, the South's presidential spokesman said on Friday.

The document called for measures to reduce tensions between the two states that fought the Korean War of 1950-53. South Korea's military believes that the North is capable of showering 10,000 rounds on Seoul within an hour using its artillery. Presidential spokesman Kim Eui-keum said the civilian drill could be held as planned, suspended or modified to reflect "changing circumstances". The U.S. -South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every spring with the Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, which both wrapped up last month.

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