Over the past months, talks have been under way between Washington and Pyongyang, but the negotiations have achieved little headway
“Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise Vigilant Ace to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement on Friday.
She said that the US and South Korean forces remained in coordination with each other and were committed to maintaining their readiness.
“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces. They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises,” White said.
White added Mattis had also spoken with his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya on the issue.
US President Donald Trump, who has described US military exercises with South Korea as both “expensive” and “provocative”, suspended several major joint military exercises following his landmark summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June.
Last month, the Pentagon’s nominee to be the commander of US forces in South Korea said the decision to suspend some joint exercises between South Korea and the United States was a “prudent risk” but had caused a “slight degradation” in military readiness.
Washington and Seoul both publicly insist they are on the same page about dealing with Pyongyang.
Behind the scenes, however, there is growing tensions between Washington and Seoul as South and North Korea move ahead with independent plans to disarm borders and rebuild economic ties between the two Koreas.
Pentagon is concerned that the improved relations between the two neighbors could be detrimental to the negotiation process aimed to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
In its latest move toward its denuclearization, the North agreed to allow international monitors to inspect key nuclear and missile testing sites across the country.