US, South Korea cancel major military exercise


The Pentagon said the decision to suspend Exercise Vigilant Ace, which had been scheduled for December, was taken by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who met in Singapore on Friday.

The suspension of this year's Vigilant Air exercise marks the second time that the US and South Korea have agreed to put off an annual large-scale military exercise in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore this past June.

Ms. White said Defense Secretary James Mattis remains in regular consultation with his South Korean counterpart to ensure both forces are ready to defend themselves if necessary, suggesting that the cancellation will have little impact on troop readiness on the Korean peninsula.

Vigilant Ace is an annual exercise last held in December 2017.

"Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces", she added.

White said the two defense chiefs agreed to "maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises".

Mattis also discussed the issue with Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.

Mr. Trump also had taken direct aim at the drill, saying it was unnecessarily provocative toward North Korea and too expensive for US taxpayers.

The two Koreas were wrapping up their demining operations in part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to carry out their plan to disarm the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the buffer zone separating them, a government official said here on Friday. Speaking to the Voice of America during a trip in Mexico City, Pompeo said he anticipated a second meeting between Trump and Kim "in the very near future", though the date has not yet been set.

"A meeting is likely sometime after the first of the year", the United States official told reporters in Washington.

The upcoming summit will give Kim an opportunity to request that the United States and South Korea suspend the 2019 iteration of the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises, the flagship allied springtime exercises that North Korea regularly describes as a ruse by the alliance to stage an invasion of its territory. The stated objective, as with most such manoeuvres between the United States and its allies, is to ensure that the two militaries can operate together effectively and safely in wartime and to deter an adversary like North Korea.

Last month the general nominated to head USA forces in South Korea said there was "was certainly degradation to the readiness of the force" because of the cancellation of the key exercise.

"I think that there was certainly degradation to the readiness of the force for the combined forces", said U.S. Army Gen. Robert Abrams.