South Korea and the United States are expected to announce this week that they will end major joint military exercises, with condition to renew them if North Korea fails to keep its promise to give up its nuclear weapons. According to government source in Seoul, the termination will mainly concern the three major joint maneuvers that the US and South Korea hold each year, but not the routine military exercises on a smaller scale.
Following the historic summit in Singapore between the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump said he would stop “provocative, inappropriate and expensive” joint military maneuvers with the South Korean armed forces that Pyongyang considers preparation for invasion on the Korean peninsular.
Currently, the US and South Korean military authorities are holding consultations on the maneuvers, which Trump has promised to discontinue, and the results of these consultations are expected to be announced this week.
South Korean government sources have also reported that the country has proposed North Korea to withdraw its long-range artillery from the strongly strengthened border between the two countries as a step toward reducing tensions. The proposal was made on Thursday talks between senior military representatives of the North and South. This meeting was the first of over 10 years.
South Korean military has proposed a number of measures to reduce tensions, including the withdrawal of long-range artillery units around 30-40 km from the military demarcation line separating the two countries. This meeting aimed at preparing concrete measures to implement the Panmunjom Declaration, adopted on April 27th at the historic summit between the North and South leaders in the border village. It calls for joint efforts to reduce military tensions and the “practical elimination of the danger of war”.
According to the South Korean White Paper on Defense Issues of 2016 states that North has 14,100 artillery units, including 5,500 mobile rocket launchers, most of which are located near the border. They represent an immediate threat to the South Korean capital Seoul, which is only 60 km from the border.
At the meeting on Thursday, the two sides agreed to fully rebuild the Western and Eastern military communication lines between them and fully implement the 2004 agreement to prevent casual military clashes. They also discussed ways to demilitarize the Panmunjom border area.