Halting S. Korea-U.S. drills risks weakening N. Korea deterrence

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Pentagon suspends Korea ‘war game’ planning for August

The now cancelled Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises normally held in August usually bring in 3,000 more American troops from overseas and involve 50,000 South Korean troops.

Following Donald Trump's Singapore session with Kim Jong Un, other major powers with a stake in the question of the future of the Korean Peninsula, including Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, are jockeying for position as the region's military and strategic landscapes are potentially recast around the world's last Cold War-era frontier.

"Following close cooperation, South Korea and the US made a decision to suspend all planning activities for the UFG, the defensive exercise slated for August", the South Korean Ministry of Defense announced on Monday in a message sent to reporters.

"Now when we talk about action, there is a lot that can be done prior to lifting of the sanctions. No decisions on subsequent war games have been made", Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in confirming the suspension. White said that later this week Defense Secretary James Mattis would meet at the Pentagon with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton to discuss "this issue".

The United States and South Korea suspended plans to conduct defensive military exercises scheduled for August, the U.S. Department of Defense said Monday.

Chung Mong-gyu, head of the Korea Football Association in Seoul, renewed the offer to North Korea, China and Japan while visiting Moscow for a FIFA general assembly earlier this month, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.

Sanctions against North Korea will remain in place until Pyongyang can assure concerned parties such as South Korea that "complete denuclearization has been achieved", the South's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

When the exercises began, North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial that the United States was "throwing fuel onto fire".

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"Stopping the UFG exercise will make North Korea anxious to have more dialogue with the United States, the North hoping to get even more US concessions without having to do much more than talk", he said. "I don't think it is my place to make that announcement, I think the USA and North Korean sides are in communications to spell out the schedule".

The decision to halt military exercises in South Korea has bewildered many current and former US defence officials, who only learned about it when Trump announced it in Singapore, after the summit with Kim.

The summer exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, consists mainly of computer simulations to hone joint decision-making and planning.

Moon said bilateral economic cooperation between South Korea and Russian Federation could expand into areas such as agriculture, fisheries, shipping ports and shipbuilding under what he defined as the "nine bridge economic cooperation", a concept he unveiled last September at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

The first unified Olympic team was a joint women's ice hockey squad for the Pyeongchang Games in February, and there was criticism in Seoul that some South Koreans were being pushed out.

Russia and South Korea agreed in 2008 to lay gas pipelines through the North to bring Russian natural gas to the South.

Frank Aum, senior expert on North Korea at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the suspension is a risk worth taking.

Another exercise, Max Thunder, took place in May.

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