Joint exercises with US put on hold indefinitely

Wind-down of 'irritating' war games US & South Korea suspend military drill planned for August

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Her remarks assume significance as during the historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week in Singapore, the latter had pledged to work towards "complete denuclearisation" in return for security guarantees from the US.

The defense ministry of South Korea on Tuesday said it would pause its military exercises with the United States as the talks about North Korea's nuclear program continue. Other major combined drills include Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises.

Democratic lawmakers, as well as some Republicans, criticized Trump's decision, warning that ending the joint drills could undermine the decades-long military alliance between Washington and Seoul ― and that the USA had given up leverage by agreeing so quickly to halting the exercises without getting anything concrete in return.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a command and control exercise created to "enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula", the Pentagon said. "Plus, I think it's very provocative", he said, using language that the Pentagon has in the past made efforts to avoid.

It is a decision that will no doubt please Kim, as North Korea has long denounced the exercise as a provocation and rehearsal to invade the North.

The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea; the number fluctuates between 23,000 and 32,000.

Last year, Ulchi Freedom Guardian ran for 11 days from August 21 and involved some 17,500 American service members, including 3,000 from off the peninsula, and 50,000 South Korean troops.

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Officials from the two Koreas met at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Monday and reached several agreements aimed at strengthening sporting ties.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said Friday that Defense Minister Song Young-moo held "deep" discussions about the drills with US Defense Secretary James Mattis in a telephone conversation Thursday evening.

Warming ties between North Korea and South Korea come as relations between North Korea and the United States have also improved after tension previous year over the North's nuclear and missile programs. -South Korea landing operation exercise held on the South Korean coast in March 2017, North Korean troops conducted one of its largest shelling exercises on the east coast in Wonsan, Kangwon province.

The Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills are the largest annual U.S. "The amount of money that we spend on that is incredible".

Russia and South Korea agreed in 2008 to lay gas pipelines through the North to bring Russian natural gas to the South.

At earlier summits of his own with Kim, Moon added, the North Korean "turned out to be frank and straightforward and despite his age, maintained his composure" throughout their long talks.

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