Seoul, Mar 7 (efe-epa).- South Korea and the United States will conduct their annual springtime joint military exercises this week, the South Korean military said on Sunday.
This year’s drills will be scaled back on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“South Korea and the US decided to conduct the springtime combined exercise from Mar.8 for nine days,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
The two sides decided to conduct the annual war games after “comprehensively taking into consideration the Covid-19 situation, the maintenance of the combat readiness posture, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of peace,” the JCS said in a statement, local news agency Yonhap reported.
The computer-simulated command post exercise (CPX) will not include any kind of outdoor maneuvers this year while the number of troops and equipment involved will be “minimized” due to the pandemic, according to the statement.
Despite the reduced scale of the drills, all eyes are on North Korea to see how it will react to the development as it criticizes the annual drills as a rehearsal to invade its territory and usually responds with missile launches.
Dialog with Pyongyang on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has been stalled since the Hanoi summit in February 2019 between then US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
At that summit, Washington considered the nuclear assets that Pyongyang offered to dismantle in exchange for the lifting of sanctions insufficient and accused the regime of missing opportunities.
After the Trump administration failed to resolve the conflict, Kim Jong-un urged the new US government, led by Joe Biden, in January to propose new alternatives to resume dialog on denuclearization, warning that it is preparing new weapons tests.
The North Korean leader did not close the door completely to dialog with Seoul but urged the South to abandon its joint military exercises with the US if it intends to re-establish ties.
Some experts fear that the North Korean regime will take advantage of the joint exercises to resume long-range missile launches and nuclear tests. EFE-EPA