S. Korea-US joint mil­i­tary drills likely to be halted

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Rahn rah­nita@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

South Korea and the United States may sus­pend their reg­u­lar joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises af­ter U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced the sus­pen­sion as a con­ces­sion to North Korea in re­turn for de­nu­cle­ariza­tion, and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in later also im­plied the pos­si­bil­ity.

Dis­cus­sions about the is­sue are un­der­way be­tween the de­fense au­thor­i­ties of the al­lies, as the first af­fected ex­er­cise may be Ulchi Free­dom Guardian (UFG), which is sched­uled to take place in Au­gust.

Some Amer­i­can me­dia re­ported Thurs­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would an­nounce the for­mal sus­pen­sion of the UFG soon.

Af­ter his sum­mit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Sin­ga­pore, Tues­day, Trump said he would stop the “provoca­tive” and “ex­pen­sive” mil­i­tary drills with South Korea, which he called “war games,” as long as de­nu­cle­ariza­tion talks con­tinue in good faith.

Moon also said the al­lies would con­sider sus­pend­ing joint drills.

“If North Korea sin­cerely car­ries out the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion process and in­ter-Korean and Wash­ing­tonPy­ongyang talks con­tinue to dis­solve hos­tile re­la­tions, we need a flex­i­ble stance about mil­i­tary pres­sure on the North, based on the spirit of build­ing mu­tual trust as agreed in the Pan­munjeom Dec­la­ra­tion,” Moon said at a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) meet­ing Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to Cheong Wa Dae.

“So we’ll care­fully con­sider sus­pend­ing the joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with the U.S., but closely con­sult with the U.S. about it.” Moon also said Pyongyang would need to come up with de­tailed steps for de­nu­cle­ariza­tion and Wash­ing­ton would need to pre­pare cor­re­spond­ing, com­pre­hen­sive mea­sures — an in­di­ca­tion that the mil­i­tary drill sus­pen­sion could be one such mea­sure.

This was the first time in seven months that the Pres­i­dent has con­vened an NSC meet­ing, with the last one be­ing held in Novem­ber when North Korea tested a long-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile. Usu­ally the meet­ing is con­vened by top se­cu­rity ad­viser Chung Eui-yong. Moon and NSC mem­bers eval­u­ated the out­come of the Trump-Kim sum­mit and dis­cussed fol­low-up mea­sures to fa­cil­i­tate im­ple­men­ta­tion of agree­ments reached at the sum­mit.

The Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense in Seoul also said the al­lies have be­gun dis­cussing the UFG is­sue.

“We are closely dis­cussing it with the U.S.,” min­istry spokes­woman Choi Hyun-soo said.

She did not an­swer when asked whether the de­fense min­istries of the two coun­tries had talked about the is­sue be­fore Trump made the re­marks.

For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha said Thurs­day that the joint ex­er­cises were an is­sue that the mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties of the al­lies should de­cide.

“It is an al­liance-level is­sue that should be de­cided through con­sul­ta­tion be­tween de­fense au­thor­i­ties,” Kang said in a joint press con­fer­ence with U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and Ja­panese For­eign Min­is­ter Taro Kono at the govern­ment com­plex in Seoul.

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