Despite North Korea’s threats, the armed forces of the United States and South Korea plan to hold their annual summer exercises as planned.
South Korea’s military, however, announced on Sunday reduced exercises without field training.
The decision to hold the joint exercises was also made in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic and “efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and build peace,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced. By denuclearization, both countries mean the disarmament of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
The commando exercise will reportedly start on Monday and last nine days. Its purpose is to maintain joint defence. The focus will be on computer simulations. Only absolutely necessary personnel will take part. The US has 28,500 soldiers stationed in South Korea.
North Korea had threatened consequences if the exercises were to take place in the neighbouring country. Pyongyang regularly accuses the US of using its manoeuvres with South Korea to prepare for an attack. Washington and Seoul deny this.
The vice-chairperson of the central committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim Yong Chol, had recently threatened in a statement that South Korea would face a “serious security crisis.”
Earlier, the influential sister of ruler Kim Jong Un, Kim Yo Jong, had threatened that North Korea would develop its capabilities for powerful pre-emptive strikes.
In recent years, the US and South Korea had already reduced the scope of some exercises, also for diplomatic reasons.
Negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear programme have not progressed since Kim Jong Un’s failed summit with former US president Donald Trump in Vietnam in February 2019.