South Korea and the United States reportedly plan to make a decision on whether to halt their annual joint military exercises, including the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) scheduled for August, if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un keeps his promise to destroy a missile-engine testing site in Tongchang-ri made during his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.
“The essential precondition for the suspension of joint military drills between Seoul and Washington is ongoing good-faith dialogue,” a diplomatic source said, adding North Korea’s dismantlement of its test site Kim Jong Un pledged to destroy and the result of the high-level talks between North Korea and the United States are likely to affect the allies’ decision on halting joint military drills.”
The two allies are expected to announce the suspension of their large-scale military drills this week. North Korea had strongly condemned ROK-U.S. annual exercises such as UFG, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which deploy U.S. strategic assets including aircraft carriers or bombers, calling the drills “rehearsal for nuclear war.” However, the allies will resume their drills if North Korea fails to take active actions to denuclearize.
The destruction of Tongchang-ri test site in North Pyongan Province could be the key factor to the suspension of the joint drills as Trump underscored the importance of the demolition of a launch facility related to intercontinental ballistic missiles that pose a grave threat to the U.S. mainland. “If the joint drills were to be suspended, the scope and range of the suspension are entirely up to President Trump,” said a South Korean government official familiar with the matter.
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