(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks on NLL in last 6 paras)
SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea supports the U.S. decision to suspend their major combined air combat training, seeking alternative ways to bolster the combined defense posture, Seoul's defense chief said Monday.
In a Singapore meeting with Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo earlier this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis proposed indefinitely postponing the massive Vigilant ACE drill that was slated for December.
It was aimed at helping move forward denuclearization talks with North Korea and reducing the defense budget.
"(I) sympathize actively" with the U.S. offer, Jeong told lawmakers during a parliamentary audit session in Seoul.
The minister, however, pointed out public concerns about a potential impact on national security.
"Even if (the training) is postponed, I will put forward opinions on complementary measures in the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) to be held in the U.S.," he added without elaborating.
The minister is scheduled to meet Mattis in Washington, D.C. this week for the annual SCM.
The annual Vigilant ACE involves hundreds of aircraft, including advanced fighter jets.
Touching on the controversy over the North's position on the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de-facto sea border with the South, Jeong said that working-level North Korean officials have yet to accept the NLL as the maritime border, despite leader Kim Jong-un's apparent recognition of it.
In April, the leaders of the two sides agreed to turn the tense area into a "maritime peace zone." They used the term "NLL" in their joint statement.
President Moon Jae-in said it indicates that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has virtually recognized the NLL.
The North's navy, however, had continued to claim its own security line until recently, sending repeated warning messages to South Korean ships crossing it.
That appears to be because North Korea's front-line troops have not received any new related instructions from Kim, Jeong said.
He added that the North's working-level officials have not yet agreed to accept the NLL.
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