S. Korea, US likely to sus­pend field ex­er­cises next year

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Lee Min-hyung mh­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

South Korea and the United States will likely sus­pend their joint field ex­er­cises next year amid the de­tente reached on the penin­sula with North Korea.

Both sides are in dis­cus­sions on whether to post­pone their an­nual large-scale Foal Ea­gle com­bined tac­ti­cal train­ing ex­er­cise slated for March, but no of­fi­cial con­sen­sus has been reached yet.

“The mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties may sus­pend ma­jor joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises next year, in­clud­ing Foal Ea­gle, but noth­ing spe­cific has been de­cided be­tween the de­fense chiefs of the two coun­tries,” a mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said Thurs­day with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

How­ever, Seoul and Wash­ing will carry out a se­ries of com­puter-sim­u­lated com­mand post ex­er­cises, as they do not pose a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity threat to the North.

The two coun­tries are known to be dis­cussing con­duct­ing the Key Re­solve com­put­er­ized com­mand post drill in March de­spite the pos­si­ble sus­pen­sion of its real time coun­ter­part, Foal Ea­gle.

The Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense de­clined to con­firm a de­tailed sched­ule for joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises slated for next year.

“South Korea and the United States are hold­ing a work­ing-level di­a­logue on the agenda, and the de­fense min­istry will an­nounce the de­tails upon reach­ing a con­sen­sus with our U.S. coun­ter­part,” min­istry spokes­woman Choi Hyun-soo said Thurs­day.

“We will do our best to no­tify peo­ple of the sched­ule at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble date,” she said.

Start­ing this year, Seoul and Wash­ing­ton have sus­pended a se­ries of joint ex­er­cises in re­sponse to the North’s peace ges­tures.

In Au­gust, they sus­pended the Ulchi Free­dom Guardian drill, one of the largest an­nual mil­i­tary com­mand post ex­er­cises here, in a bi­lat­eral bid to con­tinue the peace mo­men­tum across the penin­sula.

They also did not stage the Vig­i­lant Ace joint air ex­er­cise in De­cem­ber, though the South’s Air Force will be car­ry­ing out small-scale in­de­pen­dent aerial drills for five days from Mon­day.

The sus­pen­sion of joint ex­er­cises came as part of the al­lies’ ap­par­ent move to bring the North to the di­a­logue ta­ble by not pro­vok­ing the regime. The Seoul-Wash­ing­ton ex­er­cises have for decades been a source of anger in Py­ongyang.

Even since June’s sum­mit be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Sin­ga­pore, Trump has un­der­scored his un­wa­ver­ing trust in Kim.

But with the U.S. and the North fail­ing to make sub­stan­tial progress in their bi­lat­eral talks on de­nu­cle­ariza­tion, calls have grown for a sec­ond sum­mit to be held in the near fu­ture to in­vig­o­rate the dead­locked di­a­logue.

For the U.S., the re­sump­tion of the joint ex­er­cises with the South is not seen as a good bar­gain­ing chip with re­gard to the North’s de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

Yon­hap

AH-64 Apache at­tacker he­li­copters parked at Camp Humphreys in Pyeong­taek, Gyeonggi Prov­ince, April 1, when South Korea and the U.S. be­gan their an­nual Foal Ea­gle joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cise. The al­lies re­mained low-key for this year’s field drills to re­flect in­ter-Korean rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

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