South Korea Discusses Suspending Joint Military Exercises

18 June, 2018

South Korean officials are reacting carefully to the expected suspension of large U.S.-South Korea military exercises.

An announcement could come this week to suspend the major joint military exercises, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports.

Those exercises usually involve troops, warplanes, ships and other military weapons from U.S. bases around the world. Yonhap said, however, that some joint training would continue.

The issue is being discussed

On Monday, the South Korean defense minister said the issue is still being discussed.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson said, "We are still discussing about it. Nothing has yet been decided, and it is still in discussion."

On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted to cancel what he called the U.S.-South Korean "war games." The suspension would continue while the U.S. and North Korea negotiate an end to the North's nuclear program.

The South Korean government and U.S. military officials were not told before Trump's announcement. He made the statement after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.

However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked for cooperation on the issue. Moon said there was a need to be "flexible" on possibly easing military pressure on North Korea if the denuclearization process continues.

Critics say agreement lacks details

Critics of the denuclearization agreement reached in Singapore between Trump and Kim say it lacks important details.

They say it does not discuss the range of nuclear weapons to be included or provide a time limit or verification requirements.

Critics also oppose the president's decision to end major joint military exercises without getting any major concession in return from North Korea.

Moon Chung-in is a special adviser to South Korea's president. He supports increased discussion with North Korea. He considers Trump's good relations with Kim and his decision to suspend the exercises as parts of a diplomatic plan that is getting clearer.

"His remarks on the possible suspension of the R.O.K. [Republic of Korea]-U.S. combined military exercises in August, I think the remarks are extremely strategic," said Moon.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participate in a signing ceremony during a meeting on Sentosa Island, June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participate in a signing ceremony during a meeting on Sentosa Island, June 12, 2018, in Singapore.

Moon Chung-in also said that Trump's decision was a good answer to North Korea. North Korea has said it will suspend nuclear and missile tests for seven months. It has agreed to discuss denuclearization and to close a nuclear test area.

Ending the joint exercises, Moon said, puts pressure on North Korea to be reasonable as the two sides discuss the process ahead. For North Korea, this includes permitting outside inspectors into the country. It also involves agreeing to destroy all its nuclear weapons, accepting limits on ballistic missiles and other threatening weapons and destroying its weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said strong United Nations sanctions block 90 percent of North Korean trade. He said sanctions will stay in place until the denuclearization process begins.

Moon said, "I think the two will reach a compromise...I believe that they will find a midway point."

Many North Korea security experts do not believe Kim will completely give up his nuclear weapons. They say the weapons are important to maintaining his family's leadership of the country.

Both Trump and President Moon are testing that possibility, their supporters say.

South Korea has been in talks with North Korea to ease tensions along the heavily militarized border. The two sides are discussing the possibility of sending a joint team to the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.

They also are making efforts to organize reunions in August for families that have been separated since the division of Korea at the end of World War II.

I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

VOA's Brian Padden reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

flexible – adj. ready and able to change or adapt

range – n. the level of degrees on a scale

verification n. the process of establishing the truth

concession n. the thing that is given in response to demands

strategic – adj. carefully designed or planned for one's own interest

ballistic - adj. a long range missile

sanctions – n. punishment imposed on a country with regards to trade or economy