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South Korea, US to announce suspension of large-scale drills: Korean source

17 June 2018 12:05

 

The United States and South Korea are reportedly expected to announce the suspension of their “large-scale” military drills, amid diplomatic openings with North Korea.

American military drills with regional allies South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have long been a source of tension in Southeast Asia. The drills with South Korea in particular have been an irritant to North Korea, which has long considered them rehearsals for an invasion of its territory.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Sunday cited an unnamed South Korean government source as saying that the suspension of military drills with the US this week was likely to affect only major joint exercises, not the more routine military trainings.

After a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, US President Donald Trump said he would end the “war games” with the South.

“The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them,” Trump said back then. “I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games.”

South Korea and Japan were taken off-guard.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said later that her country’s military alliance with the US remained “as robust as ever.” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the US military presence in South Korea and the joint exercises were “vital” and had to continue.

Often left out, Japan eyes bigger role in Korea diplomacy

Japan offers to pay the initial costs of North Korean denuclearization if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertakes the process.

At the end of their summit, Trump and Kim signed a brief, broadly-worded document according to which both sides committed to working “towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Yonhap said the military drills would restart if North Korea failed to keep its promise to denuclearize.

The Trump-Kim summit came after a remarkable turnaround by both the US and North Korea. Last year saw the pair slinging insults at each other and trading threats of military attacks.

The US and the United Nations (UN) have imposed rounds of sanctions on North Korea over its weapons programs over the past several years.

Despite the summit and the signing of the document by the US and North Korean leaders, the Trump White House has failed to work out any specifics for North Korea’s potential denuclearization or even a sustainable road map for future relations with Pyongyang. As a result, much remains hinged on follow-on diplomacy.

Some observers say that North Korea is garnering dividends such as the suspension of the drills upfront.

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