S. Korea, US Suspend UFG Drill open the window of AOD

Write : 2018-06-24

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South Korea and the U.S. have decided to suspend the Ulchi Freedom Guardian(UFG) exercise slated for August amid dialogue efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
The suspension comes after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his plan to end "war games" with Seoul after his summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The defense ministries of Seoul and Washington announced Tuesday that the allies have decided to suspend "all plans" for the upcoming computer-simulated UFG exercise.
The two sides apparently reached the decision to enable smooth dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and setting up a peace regime.
Initially, the two countries were said to be mulling the suspension of all three major "war-game"-type military drills -- the UFG, the Key Resolve and the Foal Eagle -- but decided to only suspend the UFG for now.
The allies are likely to decide whether to conduct the two other drills depending on progress in talks with North Korea and the implementation of follow-up steps.
Pyongyang has been critical of the joint exercises, deeming them war rehearsals against the North.
The suspension of the UFG comes after President Trump unveiled that it was his idea to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea. But he added the drills can start up immediately if talks break down, which he hoped will not happen.
The UFG is a command post exercise that prepares for an all-out war scenario.
The current UFG began in 1976 when the UN Command-led Focus Lens exercise and the South Korean government's Ulchi exercise were combined as one. It was initially called the Ulchi Focus Lens but its name was changed to Ulchi Freedom Guardian in 2008.
Over 17-thousand U.S. troops took part in last year's UFG.
The Key Resolve, another command post exercise, takes place in March. It first began in 1995, replacing the former bilateral Team Spirit exercise. The Foal Eagle follows after the Key Resolve and is a field training drill.
These three major drills are held annually and are defensive in nature.
If joint drills are suspended while North Korea-U.S. dialogue is in progress, the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle may not take place next spring.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said that it anticipates corresponding measures from North Korea in response to the decision to suspend the UFG.
These measures include the destruction of a missile engine testing site, which Kim Jong-un is known to have promised to carry out during his summit talks with Trump.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Trump said North Korea has destroyed four of its big test sites and that the process of the North’s "total denuclearization" has already started.

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