August joint exercises will go on, says Pentagon

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August joint exercises will go on, says Pentagon

A file photo of a U.S.-Korea joint military exercise in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, in September 2017. [YONHAP]

A file photo of a U.S.-Korea joint military exercise in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, in September 2017. [YONHAP]

Pentagon spokesperson John Supple nixed the possibility of postponing U.S.-Korea joint military exercises scheduled in August, after dozens of ruling Democratic Party (DP) lawmakers requested a delay.
 
“There has been no change to the schedule of our planned training events,” Supple told Radio Free Asia on Friday. “Military readiness is a top priority of the secretary of defense. Our combined military training events are a principal method of ensuring our combined alliance readiness.”  
 
On Thursday, 66 DP lawmakers, six Justice Party, three Open Democratic Party and one independent lawmaker signed a statement calling for a postponement of the joint military exercises for the sake of dialogue with North Korea.
 
“At the Korea-U.S. summit in May, the two countries agreed to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy and dialogue based on existing inter-Korean and U.S.-North commitments, including the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration and the Singapore Joint Statement,” reads the statement.  
 
“Bold proposals and measures are needed to bring about the final peace negotiations within the term of the Moon Jae-in administration,” it said. “We strongly urge the Korean and American authorities to postpone the Korea-U.S. joint military exercise scheduled for August this year so that the Moon government can finally engage in negotiations for denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
 
Korean and U.S. forces conducted two computer simulation exercises and one major outdoor field training exercises annually up to 2018. The exercises were downsized after a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018.  
 
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the exercises were either canceled or reduced to computer-simulated war games. No field exercise took place for the past three years.  
 
“At the moment, there are no talks to introduce the large-scale field exercises,” an official of Korea’s Ministry of National Defense told the JoongAng Ilbo.  
 
North Korea carries out its annual summer exercises around this time as well.
 
“North Korea’s summer military training usually begins around July,” said Kim Joon-rak, spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a press briefing on Thursday. “We are watching activities in the North closely, and have nothing out of the ordinary to report at the moment.”
 
According to Flight Radar 24 and other institutes tracking flights, American surveillance aircraft have been spotted more frequently over the Korean Peninsula recently, including E-8 Joint STARS and the RC-135S Cobra Ball.

BY KIM SANG-JIN,ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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