US, S. Korea suspend additional military exercise, says Pentagon

Japan’s Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, and South Korea’s Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, pose for photographs before a trilateral meeting on the sideline of the Asean security summit in Singapore, October 19, 2018. — AFP pic
Japan’s Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, and South Korea’s Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, pose for photographs before a trilateral meeting on the sideline of the Asean security summit in Singapore, October 19, 2018. — AFP pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 19 — US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo have cancelled the “Vigilant Ace” military exercise that was slated for December, a Pentagon spokeswoman said today.

The two officials agreed to suspend the drill to “give the diplomatic process” with Pyongyang “every opportunity to continue,” spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.

“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” the statement read, saying the need for future exercises would continue to be evaluated.

Japan’s Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya was consulted on the matter, the statement said.

Following US President Trump’s June meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the United States said it would suspend “select” exercises with South Korea, including the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises scheduled for August.

Vigilant Ace is an air exercise aimed at improving coordination between the two armies that takes place every year in early December in South Korea.

Last year, 230 aircraft and some 12,000 US and South Korean troops participated.

In August Mattis had said the Pentagon would “see how the negotiations go, and then we will calculate the future, how we go forward.”

US and South Korean forces have been training together for years, and routinely rehearse everything from beach landings to an invasion from the North, or even “decapitation” strikes targeting the North Korean regime.

Last month, the then nominee to head US and UN forces in South Korea said the pause in drills had been a “prudent risk” to help facilitate a detente on the peninsula.

But there “was certainly a degradation in the readiness of the force, for the combined forces,” General Robert Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing. — AFP