SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea and the United States are expected to announce the suspension of “large-scale” military drills this week, with the provision that they would restart if North Korea failed to keep its promise to denuclearize, news agency Yonhap said yesterday.
Citing an unnamed government source, the South Korean news agency said the suspension was likely to affect only major joint exercises, not more routine military training.
US President Donald Trump surprised officials in Seoul and Washington when he pledged to end “war games” after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last week.
Immediately after the announcement, US forces in Korea said they had received no guidance on stopping any drills, and South Korean officials said they were trying to figure out which exercises Trump was referring to.
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 sincere about denuclearization.
Moon said South Korea would carefully consider joint military drills with the United States and he asked his officials to cooperate with the United States on the issue, his office said in a statement at the time.
Yonhap also reported yesterday that during military talks between the two Koreas on Thursday, South Korean officials asked their northern counterparts to relocate artillery 30 to 40 kilometers away from the heavily fortified military demarcation line that divides the two countries. The South’s defense ministry denied it made such a request, Yonhap said.
The talks, the first in more than a decade, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone, followed an inter-Korean summit in April at which leaders of the two Koreas agreed to defuse tensions and cease “all hostile acts.”
North and South Korea failed to reach any concrete agreement during those talks, officials said.