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S. Korea to conduct solo air exercise in December

Despite the possible suspension of the upcoming joint air defense exercise with the United States, South Korea will carry out its own air drill as scheduled in December, an official of the defense ministry here said Sunday.

The annual Seoul-Washington air exercise, Vigilant Ace, which had been scheduled for December, is highly likely to be suspended this year to lend support for ongoing peace efforts involving North Korea, according to officials of the allies.

The large-scale air exercise has been conducted in December every year since 2015 involving dozens of aircraft and thousands of service members from the two nations.

Black Eagles (Yonhap)
Black Eagles (Yonhap)

"No changes will be made to the drill to be staged by the South Korean Air Force, though the joint programs will not take place,"

an official of Seoul's Ministry of National Defense told reporters.

He added that the final decision on the suspension will be made after talks between South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his U.S. counterpart Jim Mattis during the Military Committee Meeting (MCM) and the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) slated for later this month.

If suspended, Vigilant Ace would be the latest of several joint exercises that have been canceled this year to promote dialogue aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs. North Korea has lashed out at the allies' joint exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion into the communist country.

In historic moves toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the two Koreas held summits three times this year, and U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in June in Singapore. (Yonhap)