The United States and South Korea on Friday announced that they decided to scrap another major joint military exercise this year, to give a push to the ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea.
According to chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo took a joint decision to cancel the Vigilant Ace 2018, which had been scheduled in the month of December, when they met in Singapore on Friday. Vigilant Ace is an annual December air exercise.
Last year’s the Vigilant Ace involved 12,000 US troops and some 230 military aircraft from the US and South Korea. The purpose of a joint exercise between the U.S. and its allies is to ensure that the militaries are ready to effectively operate in wartime situations to deter any adversary.
White said that the decision had been taken to “give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue.”
“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” the chief Pentagon spokesperson continued. “They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”
Mattis was in Singapore for a meeting with Asian ministers of defense including his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya. White said in the statement that Mattis also consulted with Iwaya before taking the decision and they reaffirmed their commitment to regional security.
This is the second time that an annual large-scale military exercise the U.S. and South Korea has been canceled this year. Back in June, the Pentagon stalled the Freedom Guardian exercise scheduled for August after President Donald Trump abruptly announced that he disapproved of such joint military exercise calling them expensive and provocative.
The decision was taken as a goodwill gesture following Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June 2018. The two leaders are expected to meet again for a second summit sometime later this year.