South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made a decision to suspend the annual air exercise, Vigilant Ace, "to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue", Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, center, and Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, front right, attend an informal lunch meeting with defense ministers at ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting in Singapore Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.
"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".
Mattis consulted Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya ahead of the joint US and South Korean announcement.
In June, U.S. President Donald Trump came away from a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore saying he would halt the "provocative" and costly "war games".
Vigilant Ace is an annual exercise. Some of the United States Air Force's most sophisticated aircraft participated in the exercise, including the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.
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Mattis also said the U.S. will not condone China's militarization of the South China Sea. The two countries have agreed not to hold joint military exercises, a move they hope will encourage North Korea to engage in meaningful dialogue.
Defense ministers from the US and South Korea "are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces".
The nominee to take over as the top American commander in South Korea, Army Gen. Robert Abrams, said at his Senate confirmation hearing in September the suspensions this year had contributed to a "slight" dip in combat readiness. Despite assurances from Seoul and Washington that the exercises are defensive in nature, Pyongyang has long condemned them as an invasion rehearsal against the regime.
The South Korean military has nearly completed its demining work, while the North Korean military is expected to finish its work on Saturday in line with the two sides' recent agreement aimed at reducing border tensions and preventing accidental clashes, reports Yonhap News Agency.
"The U.S. continues to make these major, substantive concessions and the North Koreans continue to drag out any sort of diplomatic process towards denuclearization", Denmark said.