The commander of US Forces Korea (USFK) on Wednesday ruled out that all joint military exercises between South Korea and the US would be suspended to support an ongoing spirit of rapprochement with North Korea.
Washington had cancelled joint drills with Seoul, scheduled in August, following a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore after Pyongyang had committed to denuclearization in exchange for security guarantees from the US.
“I don’t anticipate that this is an end of all exercises and training as we know it, but rather these visible exercises that are right up front that may cause unnecessary irritation at a time when the need for trust building is so important,” USFK commander Vincent Brooks said during an event in Seoul.
His remarks came a day before US Defence Secretary James Mattis is set to arrive in Seoul to meet his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo to discuss the current military landscape on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported.
On June 19, the US and South Korea had announced that the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise would be suspended temporarily to facilitate dialogue with the North Korean regime and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
However, the decision was criticized by many for compromising the future of the military alliance and preparedness of the combined forces as well as the future of US troops in South Korea without the North Korean regime having demonstrated any concrete commitment towards denuclearization.
“We shouldn’t avoid the reality that the physical capability is not yet gone. We haven’t seen the destruction of missiles, we haven’t seen the destruction of nuclear weapons systems,” Brooks added.
He added that both Seoul and Washington had also stressed that there were no imminent plans to reduce the number of American troops stationed in South Korea.