South Korea and the United States are expected to announce their decision to suspend large-scale combined military exercises this week amid dialogue with North Korea, a government source here said Sunday.
In the announcement, the allies are likely to include a "snapback" clause, the source said, hinting that the exercises would resume should the communist regime fail to deliver on its denuclearization commitment.
After his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump said that he will stop "provocative, inappropriate and expensive" exercises with the South, which Pyongyang has decried as an invasion rehearsal.
"The South Korean and US military authorities have been having close consultations over the combined exercises that US President Donald Trump has said he will stop," a source said on condition of anonymity.
|South Korean Army K1A1 and US Army M1A2 tanks fire live rounds during a US-South Korea joint live-fire military exercise, at a training field, near the demilitarized zone, separating the two Koreas in Pocheon, South Korea on April 21, 2017. (Reuters)|
"This week, the South Korean and US defense ministries will jointly announce the results of their discussions," the source added.
The source also noted that Trump's mention of "war games" might involve large-scale annual maneuvers, such as the springtime Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, and the summertime Ulchi Freedom Guardian.
Trump's plan to stop training exercises with South Korea is stirring up heated debate, with supporters calling it a good-will gesture to facilitate the North's denuclearization and naysayers a blow to the bilateral alliance.
Amid dialogue with the North in 1992, Seoul and Washington canceled their "Team Spirit" exercise, which resumed the following year.
The allies' militaries have long defended their regular exercises as purely "defensive in nature," rejecting the North's persistent claim that the drills are aimed at preparing for an invasion into its territory.
The allied exercises are based on a series of joint contingency plans that delineate a series of procedures to handle a wide range of scenarios, such as a full-blown war triggered by attacks or invasion by the North.
Observers said that the suspension of allied exercises could weaken Washington's rationale for an increase in Seoul's share of the cost for the upkeep of 28,500 US troops in the country. The US has reportedly demanded the South pay more, citing its costly deployment of strategic assets for the regular drills.
The two sides are expected to hold a fourth round of negotiations over the so-called burden-sharing cost in Seoul later this month.
At Tuesday's summit, the North Korean leader reaffirmed his commitment to the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula in a joint statement with Trump. But it drew criticism as it lacked specifics such as a timeline or a method for nuclear disarmament. (Yonhap)