- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2018

The U.S. and South Korea have suspended another key joint military exercise, Pentagon officials said Friday in the latest move by the Trump administration in its denuclearization efforts with North Korea.

Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White told the Associated Press that Washington and Seoul will cancel the air exercise “Vigilante Ace,” which is typically held every year and in 2017 lasted one week and involved more than 200 aircraft.

Ms. White said Defense Secretary James Mattis remains in regular consultation with his South Korean counterpart to ensure both forces are ready to defend themselves if necessary, suggesting that the cancellation will have little impact on troop readiness on the Korean peninsula.

“They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises,” she said, referring to a meeting this week between Mr. Mattis and defense chiefs from South Korea and Japan.

Friday’s announcement marks the second major military exercise suspended by the U.S. as the administration pushes to reach a lasting diplomatic deal with Pyongyang. While the administration in recent weeks has bemoaned the lack of progress by North Korea in giving up its nuclear arsenal and shutting down key test facilities, the suspension of Vigilante Ace indicates renewed outreach to Pyongyang.

On the heels of President Trump’s landmark summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in June, the Pentagon scrapped the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, one of the largest joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea. The move was cast as a good faith effort to show North Korea the U.S. was serious about diplomacy.

Mr. Trump also had taken direct aim at the drill, saying it was unnecessarily provocative toward North Korea and too expensive for U.S. taxpayers.

Pyongyang long has objected to the joint exercises and argues they represent an impediment to a lasting denuclearization deal.

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