Seoul, Washington postpone air exercises to help talks with Pyongyang

Nov 18, 2019, 09:38 am

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South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his US counterpart, Mark Esper, hold a press conference at Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel in Thailand, Sunday, which announced the two countries will postpone their combined air exercises./ Source: Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporter Lee Seok-jong

South Korea and the United States have decided to hold off upcoming joint air exercises to promote denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, the two sides announced Sunday.

In particular, the U.S. urged North Korea to return to the negotiating table without precondition, stressing that such decision was made as an act of goodwill to contribute to an environment that promotes diplomatic efforts and peace. 

As the two countries used the joint exercise postponement as a bargaining chip to help denuclearization talks with Pyongyang, attention is now focused on whether the North Korea-US negotiations, that have been stalled since working-level talks in Stockholm on Oct. 5, will resume soon. Experts say that North Korea is likely to respond positively to the postponement of US-South Korea drills. 

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo announced the decision during a joint news conference in Bangkok on the sidelines of the 6th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus).

“This decision is an act of goodwill to contribute to an environment conducive to diplomacy and the advancement of a peace,” Esper said, adding, “We urge North Korea to return to the negotiating table without precondition or hesitation.”

“We encourage North Korea to demonstrate the same goodwill as the considerate decision on conduct of training, exercise and testing,” Esper said. “Our willingness to modify training should not be mistaken for a lack of commitment to advance and defend our shared goals, interests and values,” he said. 

“We are firmly committed to the goal of achieving the complete denuclearization of North Korea,” Jeong said. “Diplomatic means are the best way to do this.”

“The ROK-US forces will continue to support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Jeong said. 

The South Korean minister said that when to resume the postponed drills will be decided “through close coordination between the allies in accordance with how things are going down the road.”

Regarding the decision, Jeong said, “The US and South Korean governments have maintained cooperation and closely worked together. (The decision) wasn’t decided at some point, but rather, it was what we have been working for closely and collaboratively in order to achieve the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”

“The defense authorities of the two countries have made the decision, actively understanding the ongoing diplomatic issues and recognizing that North Korea must take the denuclearization path and open the way for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Jeong said. 

#Jeong Kyeong-doo #Mark Esper #joint exercise #Pyongyang #postpone 
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