US, South Korea suspend upcoming military exercises

Lester Mason
June 20, 2018

Tokyo officials were uncomfortable with Japan's limited input into negotiations with North Korea and alarmed by President Trump's description of wargames as a financial burden for the United States. Those are bigger concessions that are unlikely to be granted by the USA without concrete steps by North Korea toward denuclearization. "I think it's very provocative", he said.

President Trump said Sunday agreeing to stop the "war games" during the North Korea summit was his idea because it's expensive as he slammed the media and Democrats for criticizing his negotiations with North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-Un.

South Korea Tuesday confirmed the Pentagon's announcement of the suspension of a major joint military exercise in August and called for North Korea to reciprocate.

In 1954, the U.S. -led U.N. Command started the Focus Lens exercise.

The U.S. government canceled military exercises with South Korea in the 1990s while attempting to negotiate with North Korea, but they were ultimately reinvigorated when Pyongyang balked at allowing inspectors to look at their nuclear sites.

North Korea is estimated to have thousands massive artillery guns hidden in hardened shelters among the hills and mountains of the country's rugged terrain.

North and South failed to reach any concrete agreement, officials said.

The summertime military exercises usually coincide with a nationwide civilian defense drill in South Korea in which citizens take shelter in buildings and subway stations at the sound of air-raid sirens.

The talks, the first in more than a decade, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), followed an inter-Korean summit in April at which leaders of the two Koreas agreed to defuse tensions and cease "all hostile acts".

Mr. Trump had long pondered the prospect of halting such exercises after the suggestion was first made to him last summer by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to US officials.

Experts assess that any steps made to wither the U.S.

USA army personnel and multiple launch rocket systems participate in a defense exercise at the Mugeon-ri drill field near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Paju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, June 19, 2018.

Seoul and Washington share the view that sanctions on the communist nation should remain in place until it takes "substantive" denuclearisation measures, according to the minister.

"Trump has not many (negotiating) cards now", said Yang Uk of the Korea Defence and Security Forum.

Both Trump and President Moon are testing that possibility, their supporters say.

It's not the first time that the USA and South Korea have halted military drills in an attempt to ease tensions with North Korea and persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons. The two sides are discussing the possibility of sending a joint team to the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.

They will also hold a friendly basketball match - proposed by Kim, a fan of the sport, at his summit with Moon - in Pyongyang on July 4 and another in Seoul in the autumn.

VOA's Brian Padden reported this story.

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