US, South Korea may announce suspending joint military drills this week: Yonhap news agency
Less than a week after US President Donald Trump met North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, South Korean government on Sunday, June 17, said Seoul and Washington were expected to suspend their large-scale joint military exercises this week amid talks with North Korea, South's Yonhap news agency reported.
The announcement could, however, feature a condition that the exercises would resume if Pyongyang did not meet its promises on denuclearisation, the agency report added.
On June 12, Trump said after his historic meeting with Kim that he will put an end to "provocative, inappropriate and expensive" war exercises with South Korea. These drills have also been a reason of the prolonged tension in the Korean Peninsula with the North seeing them with suspicious eyes.
On May 16, North Korea had abruptly called off an official-level meeting with South Korea in protest to the US-led air combat drills in the Korean Peninsula and blasted the South Korean government. It raised apprehension about the June 12 summit getting cancelled and although Trump called it off on May 24 citing Pyongyang's "tremendous anger and open hostility", it was reinstated later, thanks to continued diplomatic engagements.
"The South Korean and U.S. military authorities have been having close consultations over the combined exercises that U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will stop," Yonhap quoted a source as saying on the condition of anonymity.
"This week, the South Korean and U.S. defense ministries will jointly announce the results of their discussions," the report cited the source as adding.
As in other issues, Trump's stance on stopping war games with South Korea has caused polarising effects. While some say it is a goodwill gesture aimed at achieving peace in Korean Peninsula, others are suspicious that it could hurt the bilateral alliance between Washington and Seoul.
Trump has been sceptical about the cost-effectiveness of maintaining forces in the Far East right from the beginning. He prefers that Washington's allies in that region - South Korea and Japan - who take help from Washington for their security cover against regional threats like China and North Korea should bear more financial burden, even in case there is a military action against North Korea.
In 1992, amid talks with North Korea, the US and South Korea scrapped their "Team Spirit" exercise, which resumed a year later, Yonhap informed.
The US's allies have defended the regular exercises as purely "defensive", refuting North Korea's charges that they are aimed at threatening it.
"The allied exercises are based on a series of joint contingency plans that delineate a series of procedures to handle a wide range of scenarios, such as a full-blown war triggered by attacks or invasion by the North," the Yonhap news agency reported.