South Korea to conduct military exercises near controversial islets claimed by Japan

Posted June 20, 2018

In an official announcement, the United States and South Korea have made a decision to suspend the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise slated for August, as part of Trump's promise to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The US Defense Department said on Monday that it has suspended all planning for a joint military exercise with the Republic of Korea in August. The move is part of an ongoing effort by both nations to denuclearize North Korea.

South and North Korean athletes will march under the unified flag in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Asian Games, set to take place in Jakarta and Palembang.

The decision to halt military exercises in South Korea has bewildered many current and former USA defence officials, who only learned about it when Trump announced it in Singapore, after the summit with Kim.

The Pentagon has consistently labeled the annual large-scale exercises as defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining the readiness of both American and South Korean troops to fight back any military aggression from North Korea.

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"I can assure that the level of consultation between us and the United States at all levels has never been so close and so frequent", she said.

Trump also said that halting the drills is reasonable as they are "tremendously expensive" and "provocative" in an announcement that took Washington's security allies in Asia and some US defense officials and experts by surprise.

Speaking at the news conference, Kang also ruled out the possibility of reducing the size of the United States Forces Korea (USFK), an issue raised by the U.S. President last week.

Japanese officials said Tuesday they hope the strong USA security role that has underpinned the Asia-Pacific region for decades will remain unchanged despite Washington's decision to suspend a major military drill held every year with South Korea.

Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday during a two-day visit to Beijing, where they discussed the denuclearization agreement reached in Singapore.

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That led to a rare rapprochement between the two Koreas, the North's participation in the Games and ultimately the Singapore summit.

The Pentagon and South Korean government apparently weren't given a heads-up on Trump's decision to call off the Freedom Guardian exercise, for which preparations were far underway. These batteries turn any war scenario between North and South Korea into a nightmare where Seoul could lose tens of thousands of lives every hour.

The Korean Canoe Federation said it was in the final stages of preparing for a joint team in the dragon boat race, one of three canoe disciplines at the event.

Japanese Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera said the decision to suspend the U.S. -South Korea joint military exercise, held at the end of August.

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