The US should completely stop joint military exercises with South Korea instead of postponing them, Chairman of the North Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee Kim Yong Chol said, following Washington and Seoul’s decision to delay the upcoming military drills known as the Combined Flying Training Event, scheduled for November.
“The United States puts the postponement of joint exercises as care and concessions to someone and boasts that they contribute to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, but what we demand from the United States is not to conduct exercises with South Korea or completely stop the exercises at all,” Kim said, as quoted by the Korean Central News Agency.
According to Kim, Washington-Seoul joint drills do not ensure security on the Korean Peninsula or contribute to a diplomatic solution to the issue. He also reiterated that unless Washington abandons its “hostile policy” toward North Korea, denuclearization talks are impossible.
On Sunday, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that the United States and South Korea agreed to hold off the upcoming joint military air exercises in a show of good faith to promote a denuclearization dialogue with Pyongyang and encourage the latter to reciprocate.
After the first US-North Korea summit in June 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that he intended to suspend the joint military exercises with South Korea, calling them expensive and inappropriate in dialogue with Pyongyang. The allies have since canceled several drills that North Korea deemed as a provocation. Most recently, in early November, Washington and Seoul reportedly agreed to skip the Vigilant Ace military drills, scheduled to take place in December, for the second year in a row. However, later reports indicated that the countries would proceed with the exercise but would hold limited flight drills.
Despite the suspensions, the talks have since reached a deadlock, with Pyongyang calling for more flexibility on the part of Washington, particularly concerning sanctions relief. In October, North Korea gave the US until the end of the year to come up with a mutually acceptable deal to advance the denuclearization process.