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US, South Korea Make Big Change to Military Drills

The two governments are scaling them down
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 3, 2019 12:08 PM CST
In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the US, left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious...   (Kim Jun-bum/Yonhap via AP, File)
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(Newser) – South Korea and the US are eliminating their massive springtime military drills and replacing them with smaller exercises in what they call an effort to support diplomacy aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis, the AP reports. The decision announced by both countries Sunday came after President Trump complained about the cost of joint drills even as his high-stakes second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed last week. The drills' cancellation is an olive branch to North Korea, which has viewed them as an invasion rehearsal. But some experts say it will likely weaken the allies' military readiness amid worries that tensions erupt again in the wake of the failed nuclear summit in Vietnam.

The Pentagon said in a release that the US and South Korean defense chiefs decided to conclude the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of exercises. It said the allies agreed to maintain firm military readiness through newly designed command post exercises and revised field training programs. Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo "made clear that the alliance decision to adapt our training program reflected our desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner," the statement said. Seoul's Defense Ministry released a similar statement.

(Read more South Korea stories.)

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