Daily US Times: The US and South Korean militaries are scaling back their annual military drills this month due to the coronavirus pandemic and to support diplomacy focusing on North Korea’s nuclear program, officials said Sunday.
In a statement, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the allies decided to start the nine-day drills on Monday after reviewing factors like the status of the Covid-19 pandemic and diplomatic efforts to achieve denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The statement said the drills are defensive in nature and are mostly tabletop simulations and exercises that won’t involve field training.
Last year, the allies canceled their springtime drills after some of their troops were infected with Covid-19.
The countries have also suspended or downsized many of their regular training in recent years to create more space for the now-stalled US-led diplomatic drive to convince North Korea to denuclearize in return for economic and political incentives.
US-South Korea military drills have been a major source of animosities on the peninsula, with North Korea viewing the military exercise as invasion rehearsals and responding with its own weapons tests. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un urged the US in January to withdraw its hostile policy and South Korea to end drills with the United States, warning the fate of their relations with North Korea depends on how they behave.
Some experts have said Kim Jong-un may resume high-profile missile tests and raise tensions if he feels provoked by the upcoming drills.