Seoul/Beijing, June 19 (IANS) South Korea and the US have decided to suspend the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise slated for August amid dialogue efforts to denuclearize North Korea, officials of the two countries said on Tuesday.
Shortly after his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, US President Donald Trump unveiled his plan to stop “provocative, inappropriate and expensive” war games with the South, which Pyongyang has decried as an “invasion rehearsal”, Yonhap news agency reported.
“Following close cooperation, South Korea and the U.S. decided to suspend all planning activities for the UFG, the defensive exercise slated for August,” Seoul’s Defence Ministry said.
“The South and the US plan to continue consultations over additional measures.” The ministry also said that there was no decision yet regarding other allied training exercises.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry welcomed the move, calling it “positive and constructive”. The US Department of Defence also made the same announcement.
“Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the US military has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive ‘wargame’ (Freedom Guardian),” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement late Monday.
The White House said that the combined exercises are expected to be “on pause” should the North deliver on its denuclearization commitment.
“Those conversations are ongoing at this point. As long as North Korea continues to act in good faith, then we expect those things to be on pause,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had said last week.
The UFG is a command post exercise based on computer simulated war games centreing on a scenario of an all-out war with the North.
In 1954, the US-led UN Command started the Focus Lens exercise. It was later combined with South Korea’s Ulchi exercise, which was launched in the wake of a North Korean infiltration in 1968.
The combined exercise, which was called the Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL), was renamed the UFG in 2008.
In 1990, the allies temporarily halted the UFL due to the US’ participation in the Gulf War.
Amid dialogue with the North in 1992, Seoul and Washington also cancelled their Team Spirit exercise, which resumed the following year.