The United States and South Korea have reduced the an annual joint military exercise scheduled for the spring of 2019 to facilitate nuclear talks with North Korea, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday.
an annual joint military exercise scheduled for the spring of 2019 to facilitate nuclear talks with North Korea, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday.
Foal Eagle is the biggest of the regular joint exercises held by the allies, and has always infuriated Pyongyang, which condemned it as preparations for invasion.
The exercise is one of the world's largest field exercises involving 200,000 South Korean and some 30,000 US soldiers -- was delayed and scaled down last year as diplomatic detente took hold on the peninsula.
And following a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would stop holding joint exercises with the South, calling them expensive and "very provocative".
Since then the two allies have suspended most of their major joint exercises including the Ulchi Freedom Guardian in August and Vigilant Ace, slated for next month.
But more recently progress in talks with the North has stalled, with the US pushing to maintain sanctions against it until its "final, fully verified denuclearization" and Pyongyang condemning US demands as "gangster-like." Washington stations 28,500 troops in the South to defend it from its nuclear-armed neighbor, which invaded in 1950.