The US and South Korea will end two large annual combined military exercises to aid the push for a diplomatic resolution to the deadlock over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, the Pentagon said Saturday.
In a phone call, Seoul's Defence Minister, Jeong Kyeong Doo, and acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan decided combined exercises ‘Key Resolve’ and ‘Foal Eagle’ would no longer take place.
The Pentagon said the decision reflected their joint ‘desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner.’
The war games will instead be replaced by the smaller, joint ‘Dong Maeng’ exercises to be held from Monday until March 12, Seoul's joint Chiefs of Staff and the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) said in a later statement.
‘'Dong Maeng' which means 'Alliance' in English, has been modified from the previously held spring exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle and will focus on focus on strategic, operational, and tactical aspects of general military operations on the Korean Peninsula,’ the statement said.
‘These exercises are crucial in sustaining and strengthening the alliance,’ Seoul's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Park Han Ki and the CFC Commander General Robert B Abrams said.
US President Donald Trump had in the past criticized large joint exercises, describing them as ‘very expensive’ and ‘provocative’ to Pyongyang while Pyongyang has slammed past joint US-South Korean manoeuvres as part of plans to invade North Korea.
The latest announcement comes after Trump on Thursday left empty-handed from his highly-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.
Trump said North Korea had wanted a full lifting of sanctions before its nuclear disarmament would begin. North Korea, however, said it only requested partial sanctions relief.
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