Seoul, June 13 (IANS) South Korea’s presidential office hinted at the possibility of suspending the country’s joint military drills with the US, citing a need to assist denuclearization negotiations with North Korea.
“We believe there is a need to consider various ways to further promote dialogue as long as serious discussions are being held between the US and North Korea for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of peace,” spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters.
The remarks came one day after US President Donald Trump said he will stop what he called expensive and provocative “war games” with South Korea as long as the North and the US “negotiated in good faith”.
Trump’s remarks came as a surprise to many in the US and South Korea as the exercises were seen as integral to their alliance and their joint deterrence against possible aggression from the communist North, Yonhap news agency reported.
The spokesman claimed it was still not clear what Trump meant by “war games”.
“For now, there still is a need to find out the exact meaning and intention of President Trump’s remarks,” he said.
Seoul and Washington had long insisted that their joint military drills were strictly defensive. The US currently maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for an all-member meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday to discuss the issue.
The two Koreas technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice. The leaders of the divided Koreas agreed to make joints efforts to formally end the war in their two bilateral summits held on April 27 and May 26.