SINGAPORE: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo have cancelled the “Vigilant Ace” military exercise that was slated for December, a Pentagon spokeswoman said yesterday.
The two officials agreed to suspend the drill to “give the diplomatic process” with Pyongyang “every opportunity to continue,” spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.
“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” the statement read, saying the need for future exercises would continue to be evaluated.
The decision came as Mattis met with Jeong and South Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya yesterday at a security summit in Singapore.
White’s statement said Iwaya was “consulted” on the matter. Mattis did not mention the decision when he spoke to reporters after his meetings with Jeong and Iwaya.
Following US President Trump’s June meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the United States said it would suspend “select” exercises with South Korea, including the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises scheduled for August. Vigilant Ace is an air exercise aimed at improving coordination between the two armies that takes place every year in early December in South Korea.
Last year, 230 aircraft and some 12,000 US and South Korean troops participated. In August Mattis had said the Pentagon would “see how the negotiations go, and then we will calculate the future, how we go forward.” —Agencies