US suspends military exercises with South Korea to help North Korea talks

Staff Reporter

The US and South Korea have suspended planned joint military exercises to help diplomatic efforts with North Korea, the Pentagon has announced.

Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana White, said Washington and Seoul are suspending an air exercise known as Vigilant Ace “to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue.”

That announcement comes while Pentagon chief Defence Secretary James Mattis is in Singapore for a meeting of Asian defence ministers.

Vigilant Ace is one of several exercises that have been suspended to encourage dialogue aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Vigilant Ace is an annual exercise last held in December 2017.

In June the Pentagon cancelled this year’s Freedom Guardian exercise after President Donald Trump abruptly announced that he disapproved of the manoeuvres during a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,

The president called them provocative and expensive. The exercises are one of the major issues that Pyongyang has consistently railed against – also labelling them provocative.

Ms White said Mr Mattis and his South Korean counterpart are “committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces.”

“They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises,” she said.

On Friday Mr Mattis met jointly with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts and then met separately with Japanese officials.