U.S. to "conclude" large-scale military exercises with S. Korea

Chen Zhuo

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Xinhua) -- The Pentagon announced on Saturday that the United States and South Korea have decided to "conclude" the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of military exercises, which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has viewed as provocative.

The announcement came after a phone call between U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo earlier on Saturday, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The defense chiefs "reviewed and approved the Alliance decisions recommended by the Commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff on the combined exercise and training program," it said.

"Following close coordination, both sides decided to conclude the KEY RESOLVE and FOAL EAGLE series of exercises," said the statement.

The Pentagon suggested the decision to suspend the war games was a gesture to reduce tensions.

"Jeong expressed his regrets that a complete agreement was not reached while also noting his hopes for the U.S. and the DPRK to continue further vigorous conversations based on the discussion results of the Summit," it said.

"Both the Minister and Secretary agreed that close coordination between the military activities of the United States and Republic of Korea will continue to support diplomatic efforts," said the statement.

U.S. media reported earlier on Friday that the United States and South Korea would downgrade the large-scale joint military exercises this spring.

The combined forces of the United States and South Korea have annually staged springtime war games from March to April, including the Key Resolve command post exercise and the Foal Eagle field training drill.

The DPRK has denounced the war games as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.

The Pentagon said in the statement that the defense chiefs of the United States and South Korea have made it clear that the "decision to adapt our training program reflected our desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner."

They "affirmed their continued support for the ROK and U.S. armed forces, the Combined Force Command, and the United Nations Command in support of peace and security in the region," said the statement.

Nevertheless, the two military leaders also "reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the continued combined defense posture of U.S.-ROK combined forces to meet any security challenge, and agreed to maintain firm military readiness through newly designed Command Post exercises and revised field training programs."

The Pentagon also said the two military leaders "assessed the outcomes of the Summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim and discussed the further coordination of measures to establish complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as steps to maintain the readiness of combined forces."

U.S. President Donald Trump and the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong Un concluded their second summit in Hanoi last week without reaching an agreement. Nevertheless, the White House said the two leaders had "very good and constructive meetings" and discussed various ways to "advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts."

South Korea's presidential Blue House also said later that Trump and Kim have made "more meaningful progress" than ever as they expanded the scope and depth of their understanding of each other's positions.

Trump and Kim had their first summit in Singapore last June, when they promised to build new bilateral relations and work toward a "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

After the meeting, Trump said the United States would stop war games with South Korea "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should." He also said the drills were "very expensive" and "provocative ... war games."

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