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Joint Drills With South Korea Still On Despite DPRK Missile Tests - US Official

Sputnik News

21:58 02.08.2019

The US plans to carry out joint military exercises with South Korea this month, a senior US defense official confirmed Wednesday, despite several North Korean missile launches over the past couple of weeks.

"No adjustment or change in plans that we're aware of or are planning," the US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters Wednesday.

The US and South Korea are planning to carry out a joint exercise in August known as Dong Maeng. When the exercises were first introduced this year, then-Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan claimed they would "reduce tensions and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner." The first exercise was held between March 4 and March 12.

The US official also revealed to Reuters that the drills in August would involve a large, computer-simulated part.

"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 added.

On Wednesday, South Korean news agency Yonhap announced that North Korea had test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles. South Korean military officials told Yonhap that the missiles were fired eastward from the coastal South Hamgyong Province over the Sea of Japan.

North Korea also test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan last week. Shortly thereafter, North Korean state-run media reported that the launches were tests of a new tactical guided weapon and were meant to serve as a warning to South Korea against boosting its military or joining US-led war games.

During a meeting at the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas in June, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to energize their deadlocked denuclearization talks by engaging in working-level contacts.

However, since then, Pyongyang has warned the US that the planned military exercises with South Korea could thwart denuclearization talks, while the DPRK's Korean Central News Agency has referred to the joint drills as "hostile."

"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 told Reuters.

In August, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will be making his first official visit to Seoul to "meet with key leaders to reaffirm defense relationships and conduct bilateral and multilateral meetings with senior officials," the Pentagon also reported Tuesday.


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