UPDATED 9:59 AM PT — Monday, June 3, 2019
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said President Trump’s decision to stall war games with South Korea doesn’t worry him. The annual drills were shelved last year in a gesture of good faith by the U.S. toward North Korea, who called the games “an act of aggression.”
Instead, Shanahan wants to rollback the large-scale exercises and continue with revised post-drills and field training. The move comes amid continued efforts to negotiate a denuclearization deal with a reluctant chairman Kim Jong-un. Despite his hesitation, Shanahan, joined by his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, reaffirmed their mutual goal of denuclearizing North Korea.
“As three vibrant, strong Pacific democracies, we share a common vision of the future of our region: upholding a rules-based international accord; achieving complete denuclearization of North Korea in fully verified manner; and strengthening the network of like-minded nations in the region,” stated Shanahan.
While the U.S. holds out hope for a sit down with North Korea, South Korea continued with its own series of defense drills in place of those conducted with the U.S. Those exercises reportedly involve thousands of civilians and troops taking part in war and natural disaster scenarios. Military, police, and local governments teamed up during the exercises in the capital city of Seoul, where they simulated a biological attack at a stadium.
Officials have said the new drill model incorporates training from the previous U.S.-partnered games.
“Today’s drills against biological terror is a part of Ulji Taegeuk training, and aims to minimize casualties through strengthening cooperation among the military, police, government, fire department, civil, and public sectors,” explained Kim Jung-il, the Nowon District Chief of Public Health.
The U.S. decision to pull out of the scheduled exercises came with criticism from the Pentagon, following North Korea’s launch of short-range missiles.
Shanahan said the U.S. will continue maintaining diplomacy with U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific, and evaluate military readiness plans on an “as needed” basis.