US, S. Korea Postpone Joint Exercise 11/17 07:48
The United States and South Korea on Sunday said they were postponing a
joint military air exercise that North Korea has criticized as provocative.
BANGKOK (AP) -- The United States and South Korea on Sunday said they were
postponing a joint military air exercise that North Korea has criticized as
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his South Korean counterpart made the
announcement in Bangkok, where they were attending an Asia defense ministers'
Esper told reporters he did not consider the postponement a concession to
"We have made this decision as an act of goodwill to contribute to an
environment conducive to diplomacy and the advancement of peace," Esper said.
As recently as Friday, when Esper was in Seoul to consult with South Korean
officials, there was no word on postponing the military air exercise, which had
been called Vigilant Ace.
Seoul and Washington had scaled back the exercise recently and changed the
name, but North Korea strongly objected, calling it evidence of a lack of
interest in improving relations.
The North has demanded accommodations before it will agree to resume nuclear
South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said the exercise had been
put off pending further consultations between Seoul and Washington. No new date
has been set.
"I see this as a good-faith effort by the United States and the Republic of
Korea to enable peace ... to facilitate a political agreement, a deal if you
will, that leads to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Esper said.
He said Seoul and Washington encourage North Korea "to demonstrate the same
goodwill" as it considers decisions on its own military training, exercises and
He also urged the North to return to the negotiating table "without
precondition or hesitation."
Esper said that even without the planned exercise of South Korean and
American air forces, both militaries "will remain at a high state of readiness"
for potential combat.
The U.S. has about 28,000 troops in South Korea.