U.S., South Korea scale back annual drills

Last year the Allies canceled their spring exercises after some of their troops were infected with the coronavirus. In recent years, countries have also suspended or scaled down much of their regular training courses to make room for the currently stalled US diplomatic initiative to convince North Korea to denuclearize in return for economic and political incentives.

The exercises between the United States and South Korea were a major cause of hostilities on the peninsula. North Korea viewed them as invasion samples and responded with its own weapon tests. In January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called on the US to withdraw its hostile policies and South Korea to end exercises with the US. The fate of their relations with North Korea depends on how they conduct themselves.

Some experts have said Kim could resume high-profile missile testing and build tension if he feels provoked by the upcoming exercises, one of the two main military exercises between Seoul and Washington, along with her summer training.

Nuclear negotiations have stalled for about two years since a summit meeting between Kim and then-President Donald Trump collapsed in February 2019 over disputes over US-led sanctions against North Korea. The administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which facilitated the early part of the US-North Korea talks, has called for a restart of diplomacy and stronger ties between Korea.

A South Korean chief of staff said Seoul and Washington had decided to “minimize” the number of troops participating in this month’s exercises because of the pandemic.

The officer, who asked for anonymity, citing a departmental rule, said the allies had field exercises year-round to maintain their readiness rather than keeping it intense during certain periods, in an obvious reference to the spring and summer exercises.

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