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