Seoul: South Korea on Wednesday said that any change in the situation of its joint military maneuvers with the US — resumption or suspension — is subject to discussion between the two allies who have not yet addressed the issue.
The change in the situation of the drills is a matter “that should be discussed and decided by South Korea and the US while reviewing the progress in the denuclearization of North Korea,” Efe quoted the spokesperson for the South Korean Presidential Office, Kim Eui-Kyeom, as saying.
Kim Eui-Kyeom’s statements came hours after US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, downplayed the suspension in June of joint maneuvers with South Korea and warned that his country has not ruled out resuming military exercises next year.
“As you know, we took this step to suspend several of the larger exercises as a good-faith measure,” Mattis said during a press conference on Tuesday at the Pentagon. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”
The annual joint exercises by Washington and Seoul were seen by Pyongyang as a provocation, leading US President Donald Trump to order their suspension following his historic summit in June with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
Although Kim Eui-Kyeom said on Wednesday that the decision affected only the maneuvers scheduled for this year, he insisted that any change in the agreement is subject to discussion and, so far, the issue has not yet been addressed by either country.
The open dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang to carry out the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, one of the agreements reached by the leaders at their historic summit, has stagnated due to differences over how to undertake the process.
The mention of the joint maneuvers also comes after the White House expressed its disappointment at the lack of progress following the summit which led Trump Friday to call off Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled visit to Pyongyang this week.