Tue, Nov 06, 2018 - Page 5 News List

US, S Korea stage drills ahead of N Korea talks

SUMMIT:The South’s defense minister said Washington and Seoul would decide whether to resume major joint exercises next month, after US-North Korea talks this week

Reuters, SEOUL

South Korean marines yesterday exit an amphibious assault vehicle on a beach during a landing operation in the southern city of Pohang.

Photo: AFP

About 500 US and South Korean marines yesterday began small-scale military drills, just days before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to hold talks with North Korea on denuclearization and plans for a second summit of heads of state.

The Korean Marine Exchange Program was among the training drills indefinitely suspended in June, after US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and promised to end US-South Korea military exercises.

Although larger exercises were suspended, the two countries have continued small-scale drills, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said yesterday, adding that the marines were holding a training round near the southern city of Pohang.

Pompeo, interviewed on US broadcaster CBS’ Face the Nation, on Sunday said he would be in New York City at the end of the week to meet North Korean top official Kim Yong-chol.

“I expect we’ll make some real progress, including an effort to make sure that the summit between our two leaders can take place, where we can make substantial steps towards denuclearization,” he added.

In Washington last week, South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo said that the two countries would by next month decide on major joint military exercises for next year.

Vigilant Ace, suspended this month, is one of several such exercises halted to encourage dialogue with Pyongyang, which has criticized such exercises in the past.

However, the biggest combat-readiness war game ever staged in and around Japan has gone ahead, with nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan joining Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship in the ocean off Japan, another key player in the effort to pressure the North.

This week’s exercises follow a warning by North Korea on Friday that it could resume its nuclear program if the US would not drop its campaign of “maximum pressure” and sanctions.

South Korea hopes that the North and the US will make “big progress” during the talks set for this week, South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said yesterday, but declined to comment on the North’s Friday statement.

Over the past few weeks, North Korea has pressed harder for what it sees as reciprocal concessions by the US and other countries.

However, US officials have remained skeptical of Kim’s commitment to give up his nuclear arsenal, and Washington has said it would not support easing international sanctions until more verified progress is made.

Interviewed on Fox Broadcasting Co’s Fox News Sunday, Pompeo said that the Trump administration wants a full, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump insisted on “no economic relief until we have achieved our ultimate objective,” Pompeo added.

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