- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2019

The Pentagon will not seek reinstatement of large-scale war games between the U.S. and South Korea, suspended in the wake of failed denuclearization talks between the Trump administration and North Korea last March, but instead will opt for much smaller military drills with its allies in Seoul.

The complete cancellation of the massive military drills between Washington and South Korea will not affect the ability of U.S. forces based on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific to respond to military threats in the region, acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said early Monday.

“I am confident we have the readiness that we are required to have,” on the Korean Peninsula, Mr. Shanahan said while en route to Seoul, Voice of America reported.

The Pentagon chief’s comments came after meeting Sunday with Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya and South Korean National Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La security dialogue in Singapore.

“The three ministers emphasized that trilateral and multilateral security cooperation led by the three countries” in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a Defense Department readout of the meeting. All three defense chiefs “committed to further trilateral security cooperation, including information sharing … and combined exercises,” the Pentagon statement added.

Those future military drills, however, will likely be much smaller in scale and scope compared to previous exercises such as Operation Foal Eagle and Key Resolve — the two largest military wargames between the U.S. and Seoul. The Pentagon announced the suspension of both exercises in March, days after denuclearization talks between Mr. Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un stalled.

Designed as a goodwill gesture toward North Korea, critics argue the suspension of the military drills have sent a chilling message to Seoul and other U.S. allies in the Pacific over Washington’s resolve to confront national security challenges in the region.

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