US, South Korea to end key joint military exercises 

Trump has ruled out withdrawing any of the 28,500 US forces based in South Korea to defend it from its nuclear-armed neighbour.

Published: 03rd March 2019 11:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd March 2019 11:56 AM   |  A+A-

The joint military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops that Pyongyang views as a highly provocative rehearsal for invasion.

US and South Korean marines during a joint military exercise (FIle | AP)

By AFP

SEOUL: The US and South Korea said on Sunday they will end their annual large-scale joint military exercises as Washington pursues efforts to improve ties with North Korea.

The decision comes days after the conclusion of US President Donald Trump's second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, which ended without a formal agreement but with both sides suggesting they would keep talking.

Trump has ruled out withdrawing any of the 28,500 US forces based in South Korea to defend it from its nuclear-armed neighbour, which invaded in 1950.

ALSO READ | North Korean debt to Sweden reaches record high USD 302 million in 2019

Any such drawdown would face a strong pushback from the US Congress and Japan, whose conservative government is deeply wary of North Korea's intentions.

But the US president has complained repeatedly over the cost of the military drills, which Pyongyang has always condemned as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

During a Saturday phone call between South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his US counterpart Patrick Shanahan, "both sides decided to conclude the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of exercises", according to a Pentagon statement.

Foal Eagle is the biggest of the regular joint exercises held by the allies and has always infuriated Pyongyang.

In the past, it has involved 200,000 South Korean forces and some 30,000 US soldiers.

It is accompanied by Key Resolve, a computer-simulated war game conducted by military commanders which usually begins in March and runs for about 10 days.

The two allies will instead carry out "adjusted outside manoeuvre trainings and united command exercises to continue firm military readiness", Seoul's defence ministry said on Sunday.

ALSO READ | Withdrawal of US troops from S Korea not under consideration, says Trump ahead of meeting with Kim 

The decision was reached to support ongoing diplomatic efforts for North Korea's denuclearisation and ease military tensions with the North, it added.

Opponents of scrapping the drills have warned that it could impact the combat readiness of the combined US and South Korean forces and hand the North a strategic advantage on the divided peninsula, but most analysts said such concerns were exaggerated.

"Suspending or downgrading the US-South Korean drills may hurt the readiness of the two militaries, but I don't think it's going to be a serious security threat to South Korea," Ahn Chan-il, the president of the World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

"The South's conventional forces outclass the North's and given the current situation (with the US and the existing sanctions), it's highly unlikely that Pyongyang will do anything with its nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future," he added.

Washington has sought to end long-running tensions on the peninsula and encourage North Korea to scrap its nuclear programme.

Since Trump's first summit with Kim last year in Singapore, in which both leaders signed a vaguely-worded commitment to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the US and Seoul have scaled back or scrapped several joint military drills, and US bombers are no longer flying over South Korea.

"Not downgrading or suspending the drills at this point would mean the involved countries are not serious" about reaching a denuclearisation accord, said University of North Korean Studies professor Yang Moo-jin.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp