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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. suspend Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise

All Headlines 06:37 June 19, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS photo; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, June 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have decided to suspend the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise slated for August, Seoul's defense ministry said Tuesday, amid dialogue efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

Shortly after his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his plan to stop "provocative, inappropriate and expensive" war games with the South, which Pyongyang has decried as an invasion rehearsal.

"Following close cooperation, South Korea and the U.S. decided to suspend all planning activities for the UFG, the defensive exercise slated for August," the ministry said in a text message sent to reporters.

"The South and the U.S. plan to continue consultations over additional measures," it added.

The ministry also said that there is no decision yet regarding other training exercises.

Following Trump's decision to suspend the war games, speculation has surged that the allies might halt three major exercises: the UFG and springtime Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises.

Amid dialogue with the North in 1992, Seoul and Washington canceled their "Team Spirit" exercise, which resumed the following year.

The allies' militaries have long defended their regular exercises as purely "defensive in nature," rejecting the North's persistent claim that the drills are aimed at preparing for an invasion of its territory.

Trump's suspension plan has been stirring up heated debate, with supporters calling it a good-will gesture to facilitate the North's denuclearization and naysayers a blow to the bilateral alliance.

Their exercises are based on a series of joint contingency plans that delineate a series of procedures to handle a wide range of scenarios, such as a full-blown war.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows U.S. troops in an exercise. (Yonhap)


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