Seoul expects ‘reciprocal’ act from North to military drill suspension

SEOUL, June 20 (UPI) — South Korea expects a reciprocal action from North Korea to its recent decision to suspend a U.S.-South Korea joint military drills.

“The unified defense system of South Korea and the U.S. is maintained without any setback and it will remain to be like this in the future,” Defense Ministry Spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said at a press briefing Wednesday, Yonhap reported.

“We expect a reciprocal action from North Korea in response to our decision to suspend the (South-U.S.) joint military exercise.”

The cancellation of the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian military exercise was done to maintain diplomatic momentum for peace following recent summits between the U.S. and North Korea and the South and North.

The joint U.S.-South Korea military drill, however, could be put back on if North Korea doesn’t follow necessary steps for denuclearization, the spokesperson said.

The Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills are the largest annual U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise held at the end of August. It involved some 50,000 South Korean troops and 17,500 U.S. forces last year with nuclear-capable strategic air and naval assets, such as stealth fighters and bombers, according to 38 North.

After his meeting with Pyongyang leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, U.S. President Donald Trump called the military exercise too expensive and “provocative” and said the United States will save “a tremendous amount of money” without it.

South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff also announced on Wednesday that Seoul would postpone its annual command post drill called the Taeguk Exercise, scheduled to begin next Tuesday, MBC reported.