US, South Korea reduce scope of next big military exercise

The military drill is being revamped to avoid hurting diplomatic efforts with North Korea

Photo: EPA US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis

The United States and South Korea have scaled down their next major joint military exercise, scheduled for the spring of 2019, so the war games are not a hindrance to diplomacy over ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis announced on Wednesday.

“We are not canceling exercises. We are realigning one exercise. Foal Eagle is being reorganised,” Mattis assured, in response to a reporter’s query, adding that the drill would be “reduced in scope”. 

He gave no further details of how the exercises will be downsized, but said the reduced scope was an effort by the two allies to encourage further negotiations in the stalled talks between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The US and South Korea, where nearly 30,000 American troops are stationed, have been training together for years, and routinely rehearse everything from beach landings to an invasion from the North and even “decapitation” strikes targeting the North Korean regime. After a historic summit in Singapore in June between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, where the leaders signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearisation of the peninsula, however, Washington and Seoul have suspended most of their major joint exercises. Those include the the Ulchi Freedom Guardian in August and the Vigilant Ace air force training initially slated for next month.

Similar articles