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Moon says S. Korea-U.S. exercise could be discussed with N. Korea if necessary

All News 14:43 January 18, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Monday that South and North Korea can discuss issues regarding joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington if necessary through a joint military committee as agreed upon during a 2018 inter-Korean summit.

Moon made the comment during his New Year's press conference in an answer to a reporter's question on if he could accept North Korea's call to halt the joint maneuvers with the United States.

"The two Koreas are supposed to discuss South Korea-U.S. combined exercises through the inter-Korean military joint committee. If necessary, we can consult on the issue with North Korea through the channel," Moon said.

Seoul and Washington have held large-scale military exercises twice a year, and their springtime one is supposed to take place around March.

North Korea has long bristled at such drills, claiming that such exercises are nothing but a rehearsal for invasion into the North.

During a recent party congress meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un demanded an end to joint military drills between the allies, citing it as one of critical things necessary to improve the currently chilled cross-border relations.

"North Korea has cared much about the exercises and made very sensitive responses," Moon said. "I want to stress once again that those combined exercises are regular ones and defensive in nature."

The president also noted that the issue can be seen from the perspectives of peace on and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

This photo taken on Feb. 27, 2020, shows Helicopters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at U.S. base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Since 2018, South Korea and the U.S. have either canceled or scaled back joint drills to back diplomacy with North Korea.

Last year, they "indefinitely postponed" the springtime program due to concerns over the new coronavirus, and the summertime exercise was held in a scaled-back manner in August.

The inter-Korean military committee Moon mentioned is what the two Koreas agreed to form under the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) signed in 2018 during the inter-Korean summit.

The formation of such an entity was first agreed upon in 1992, but the two Koreas have yet to launch one amid chilled ties.

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a New Year's press conference, also available via videoconference, at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 18, 2021. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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