Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Washington, Seoul Suspend Joint Military Drill

Emergency services personnel wearing protective clothing participate in an anti-terror and anti-chemical terror exercise as part of the 2017 Ulchi Freedom Guardian N. and S. Korean Athletes To March Under Unified Flag
Ellis Copeland | 20 June, 2018, 20:14

"The South and the U.S. plan to continue consultations over additional measures". The bad news? It can not be divulged - at least, for now.

South Korea and the Pentagon announced they would halt the annual Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August.

The two rivals also agreed to establish new ties and work to build a "lasting and stable peace regime" on the Korean peninsula.

Trump and Kim met last Tuesday in Singapore in their countries' first-ever summit.

The Singapore summit declaration was a broad vision statement but lacked any information on protocols, personnel, timelines and commitments.

But South Korean Foreign Minister Kang shed some light on the subject.

The US-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every year with the Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, which both wrapped up last month.

She did, however, spell out what "complete denuclearization" meant: "Complete denuclearization means weapons, materials, facilities and plants and that would include the Yongpyong complex", she said.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there would be no changes to joint drill plans between the United States and Japan, both of which regularly practise to deter North Korea.

Pyongyang has stopped its nuclear and missile tests, dismantling its main nuclear test site in which the country carried out all of its six nuclear detonations.

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Genron NPO head Yasushi Kudo says more Japanese are skeptical about denuclearization because their nation is not involved in negotiations with the North.

The cancellation, abruptly decided by President Donald Trump at his summit last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was formally announced by the Pentagon on Monday.

Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera called the joint exercises and the United States military presence in South Korea "vital" to East Asian security.

The Pentagon said it had suspended all planning for the exercise but "no decisions on subsequent war games have been made". "We have made clear this is a goodwill gesture to strengthen dialog momentum".

Still, the US -initiated decision to shelve the drills isn't likely to dramatically change the psyche of South Koreans who have spent their entire lives facing North Korean threats and living through wild swings in inter-Korean relations.

However, when pressed on the issue, Kang conceded that Seoul had not been informed about the initiative in advance. "And, we are confident that we can achieve it with full support and concerted efforts from the global community", she said.

"I can assure you that the level of consultation between us and the United States at all levels has never been so close and so frequent", she said.

The South Korean president said he and his Russian counterpart shared a common goal of peacefully denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Some 700 kilometers of it would be on the territory of North Korea.

Ultimately, the sight of North and South Korean players wearing the same jerseys drew emotive responses from spectators and the squad quickly became an Olympic favourite despite being thrashed in all its matches. "Putin's visit to North Korea could occur", he suggests, "after Matiyenko's, that is, not earlier than the fall".

"North Korea has strong female paddlers", Kim said.

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