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S. Korea, U.S. to avoid hype for joint defense drills

All Headlines 14:41 June 03, 2018

By Lee Chi-dong

SINGAPORE, June 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States plan to keep their regular combined military exercises low-key in a bid to help maintain the peace mood, a Ministry of National Defense official said Sunday.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo and the Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis, made the resolution in their talks in Singapore a day earlier as part of a "strategic communication" strategy to reflect new security conditions involving North Korea, the official told reporters, requesting anonymity.

It's an apparently reversal from the allies' efforts to emphasize their joint combat posture amid the North's provocations that lasted until several months ago.

The U.S. used to make public the deployment of such strategic assets as aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighter jets to Korea.

The defense authorities of South Korea and the U.S. agreed on the importance of continuing combined drills even in the dialogue phase, given the North's advanced threats.

But there will be little or no media coverage allowed for such major military maneuvers, as they don't want to give the North a pretext for shifting back to making provocations.

The allies may also "minimize" the deployment of strategic assets to the peninsula for the time being, to which the North has responded sensitively.

Song told Mattis that there shouldn't be "even 0.1-mm gap" between the two sides on the North Korea issue and the secretary agreed to the view, according to the ministry official.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in a file photo (Yonhap)

The North, meanwhile, renewed its typical criticism of the allies' military training.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, took issue with the South's plan to join the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a U.S.-led multinational naval practice to open in late June, and the allies' Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise reportedly slated for August.

It accused the South of running counter to the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration signed at the April 27 inter-Korean summit.

"The North and South are now faced with a monumental task of easing military tensions and realizing peace on the Korean Peninsula by faithfully implementing the Panmunjom Declaration," the paper said. "Dialogue and confrontation, and peace and war exercises can never go hand-in-hand."

The North's leader Kim Jong-un is scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. The two Koreas also plan to hold a series of talks on easing military tensions, promoting sports exchanges and resuming humanitarian projects.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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