South Korea, US to keep joint drills low-key to maintain peace mood on Korean peninsula

South Korean marines marching during an exercise as part of the Foal Eagle joint training with the US in Pohang, on April 5, 2018.
South Korean marines marching during an exercise as part of the Foal Eagle joint training with the US in Pohang, on April 5, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - South Korea and the United States plan to keep their regular combined military exercises low-key in a bid to help maintain the peace mood, a Ministry of National Defence official told reporters on Sunday (June 3), reported South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Defence Minister Song Young Moo and the Pentagon chief James Mattis made the resolution in their talks in Singapore on Saturday (June 2) as part of a "strategic communication" strategy to reflect new security conditions involving North Korea, the official told reporters, requesting anonymity.

Mr Song told Mr Mattis that there should not be "even 0.1-mm gap" between the two sides on the North Korea issue and the secretary agreed to the view, according to the ministry official.

The US used to make public the deployment of such strategic assets as aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighter jets to South Korea, which is covered under the US nuclear umbrella.

Both allies also emphasised their joint combat posture amid the North's string of missile and nuclear tests last year. Since the beginning of this year, Pyongyang has halted its provocations and agreed to come to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearisation.

Preparations are on-going for an unprecedented summit between North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

The defence authorities of South Korea and the US agreed on the importance of continuing combined drills, given the North's advanced threats.

But there will be little or no media coverage allowed for such major military manoeuvres, as the allies do not want to give the North a pretext for making any provocations, reported Yonhap.

The allies may also "minimise" the deployment of strategic assets to the peninsula for the time being.

 
 

North Korea last month (May) issued a threat to reconsider the planned summit in Singapore in an angry response to joint air drills between US and South Korea. Nuclear-capable B-52 bombers are reportedly dropped.

On Sunday (June 3), North Korea took issue with Seoul's plan to join the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a US-led multinational naval practice slated to open in late June, and the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise between South Korea and the US reportedly slated for August.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, accused the South of running counter to the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration signed at the April 27 inter-Korean summit.

"The North and South are now faced with a monumental task of easing military tensions and realising peace on the Korean Peninsula by faithfully implementing the Panmunjom Declaration," the paper said.

"Dialogue and confrontation, and peace and war exercises can never go hand-in-hand."