US, South Korea to ignore North's warnings on joint drills
Iran Press TV
Thu Aug 1, 2019 08:57AM
The United States will proceed with plans to hold a joint military drill with South Korea despite warnings by North Korea, which deems the military cooperation as detrimental to denuclearization talks.
A senior US defense official said on Wednesday that American and South Korean military forces were preparing for the Dong Maeng exercises in August, Reuters reported Thursday.
"No adjustment or change in plans that we're aware of or are planning," the US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
"We have to do two things: we have to give the diplomats appropriate space for their diplomacy and help create an environment that is conducive to the talks when they resume ... and we have to maintain readiness," the US official said.
The drills are believed to be a slimmed down version of an annual drill once known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, which featured thousands of American troops.
It is unclear how many U.S. troops will be involved this year, but the official noted that the exercise, as in the past, would have a large computer simulated portion.
"The main thing you want to test, exercise, practice is to make decisions in a combined decision making environment because we have an integrated command structure," the official said.
As a clear warning, Pyongyang fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, days after two test-launches last week. The move raised the stakes for American and North Korean diplomats who looked forward to resuming talks on North Korean denuclearization.
The talks hit a snag after a second meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam earlier this year ended abruptly without any outcome.
Trump and Kim met again briefly at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the South and the North on June 30. However, Pyongyang has since taken issue with the drills, calling on Washington to stop breaking its promises and call off the military exercises before they derail the ties.
North Korean State news agency KCNA repeated Pyongyang's calls, urging both Washington and Seoul to end their "hostile" joint drills.
Last week, Kim warned South Korea against "double-dealing" by purchasing advanced weaponry amid peace talks between the two neighbors.
He said that Pyongyang won't sit idly by as it neighbor expanded its military cooperation with the US.
"We cannot but develop non-stop super-powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the South," Kim said as he attended the last week missile launches, according to state news agency KCNA.
South Korea has said in the past that the exercise would go ahead as planned, rejecting the North's claims that they could undermine an agreement made between Trump and Kim.
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