South Korea and the United States have agreed to temporarily suspend a major joint military exercise scheduled for August following a historic summit between Washington and Pyongyang last week that promised security guarantees for the North Korean regime in return for complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
“S. Korea and the U.S. have decided to suspend all planned activities of defensive exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) that was scheduled for August following close cooperation,” defense authorities announced on Tuesday. “S. Korea and the U.S. will continue to hold consultations on additional measures.”
It is the first time for the two countries to temporarily suspend the UFG since 1990 when the joint military drill was halted due to the U.S.’s participation in the Gulf War.
“No decision has been made yet with regard to other [joint military] exercises,” the authorities said. Other major combined drills include Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises.
Political pundits noted that the latest decision is the first action taken to stop “provocative, inappropriate and expensive” war games on the peninsula pledged by U.S. President Donald Trump after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last week.
In response to the joint drill suspension, North Korea is expected to destroy an engine test site for its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The UFG joint military drill held every August is a major command post exercise in the form of a computer-simulated war game based on a scenario of an all-out war with North Korea. It is a combination of Focus Lens exercise led by the United Nations Command since 1954 and S. Korea’s Ulchi exercise that was launched after N. Korea’s infiltration on the Blue House on January 21, 1968.
The annual UFG exercise is participated by government administrative agencies, major private mobilization entities, advanced army, naval, and air forces, Marine Corps, U.S. forces in S. Korea, war-supporting U.S. forces’ capability. Last year, 17,500 American troops, including 3,000 from overseas bases, participated in the UFG drill.
S. Korea and the U.S. are expected to make a decision on whether to push ahead with other major joint military drills Key Resolve and Foal Eagle after verifying N. Korea’s implementation of denuclearization.
By Ahn Doo-won and Lee Eun-joo
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