June 23 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Defense said Friday it has “indefinitely” suspended select military exercises with South Korea to support negotiations to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced after last week’s historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore that the “provocative” exercises would be stopped while negotiations are under way. South Korea and the U.S. later said they would suspend planning for the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise slated for August.
“To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “This includes suspending FREEDOM GUARDIAN along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months.”
The decision was made at a meeting involving U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joe Dunford and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.
“In support of upcoming diplomatic negotiations led by Secretary Pompeo, additional decisions will depend upon the DPRK continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith,” the statement added, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea has long condemned the regular drills as an invasion rehearsal despite Seoul and Washington’s assurances they are defensive in nature.
Mattis is scheduled to visit South Korea next week for further consultations with his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo.
At the summit, Kim committed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula in return for U.S. security guarantees.