A joint military exercise by the United States and South Korea, known as Vigilance Ace, has been suspended to continue the diplomatic progress that has been made with North Korea.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement Friday that Washington and Seoul agreed to suspend the air exercises “to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue.”
The decision to suspend the exercises was made during meetings in Singapore between Defense Secretary James Mattis and Asian Defense ministers, including South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo.
Mattis and White said their counterparts in South Korea are “committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” according to The Associated Press.
“They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”
Mattis also consulted Japan’s Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya on the matter, who “reaffirmed their commitment to regional security.”
The Vigilance Ace is an annual exercise that was last held in December of 2017, the AP reported.
North Korea has strongly objected to South Korean and U.S. military exercise in the past, calling them rehearsals for an invasion.
In 2017, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un swore “merciless retaliation” against one of these exercises.
The United States, however, had insisted on keeping the maneuvers, due to the possible need for defensive measures should North Korea make good on their offensive threats.
In 2017, Vigilance Ace lasted around a week and involved 200 aircraft from eight different bases from both the United States and South Korea.
This move to cancel the military exercise was made months after the Pentagon canceled June’s scheduled Freedom Guardian exercise, which Trump announced after his summit with Kim.
Trump had routinely criticized U.S. military exercises with South Korea, calling them “provocative and expensive,” according to Business Insider.
“The President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games,” the White House said in a statement in August.
“Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses.”