US, South Korea again call off major military exercise

South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

The two officials agreed to suspend the drill to "give the diplomatic process" with Pyongyang "every opportunity to continue", spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.

This photo, provided by South Korea's Ministry of National Defense, shows South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (R) with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (C) and Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya in Singapore on October 19, 2018. She also said that Mattis had consulted with Japan's new Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya during a meeting between the two on Friday, who agreed with the decision.

White said on Friday that Mattis and Jeong "pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises".

"South Korea and the US will not conduct an annual joint military exercise that was previously scheduled to take place at the end of the year".

Mattis consulted Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya ahead of the joint USA and South Korean announcement.

Vigilant Ace is one of several exercises that have been suspended since the summit to encourage dialogue aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

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Trump made the announcement after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Pentagon and South Korea are canceling another major military exercise this year, citing a push for diplomatic progress with North Korea. On Friday he met jointly with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts and then met separately with the Japanese minister.

Mr. Trump also had taken direct aim at the drill, saying it was unnecessarily provocative toward North Korea and too expensive for USA taxpayers.

For decades, North Korea has strongly objected to large-scale US-South Korean military exercises, calling them dress rehearsals for an invasion and part of an American strategy to stifle the North.

Iwaya sought cooperation from South Korea, which is not now part of global efforts to monitor North Korea's transfer of goods at sea between ships in violation of United Nations sanctions, and Jeong responded positively, according to Iwaya. The stated objective, as with most such manoeuvres between the United States and its allies, is to ensure that the two militaries can operate together effectively and safely in wartime and to deter an adversary like North Korea.

Denmark said joint exercises were particularly important as a new commander, U.S. Army General Robert Abrams, takes charge of U.S. forces in South Korea.

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