US to continue military drills with South Korea: Mattis

US last week cancelled a meeting with North Korea, citing insufficient progress on denuclearisation.

    Mattison said at the Pentagon that no decisions had yet been made on major military exercises for next year [Zach Gibson/AFP]
    Mattison said at the Pentagon that no decisions had yet been made on major military exercises for next year [Zach Gibson/AFP]

    The US military has no plans to suspend major military exercises with South Korea, James Mattis, the US defence secretary, said on Tuesday.

    Following a June meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, the US scrapped its largest military exercises with South Korea as a goodwill gesture according to Mattis, but he told reporters on Tuesday the US would continue other training operations with South Korea.

    "We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises," he said, adding that no decisions had yet been made on major exercises for next year. 

    The June summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim was the first meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader since the nations went to war in the 1950s. 

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    Kim broadly agreed to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, but made no indication that North Korea is willing to give up its weapons unilaterally, which is the Trump administration's demand.

    However, since then, diplomats have failed to advance the process.

    Last week, Trump cancelled a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials, citing insufficient progress on denuclearisation.

    Trump has blamed the lack of progress partially on China, suggesting Beijing was stalling efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

    China responded to those claims, calling the US president's actions "irresponsible".

    Stalemate

    Trump's June decision to unilaterally suspend drills with South Korea was broadly criticised as a premature concession to Kim, who Trump wants to give up his country's nuclear weapons.

    However, North Korea wants steps towards a peace treaty between the two countries.

    The Korean war in the late 1950s ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty which left North Korea technically still at war with US-led UN forces in South Korea.

    US officials fear North Korea might decide to cut a separate deal with South Korea, thus driving a wedge between the US-South Korea alliance. 

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    A South Korea presidential spokesperson acknowledged that talks between Washington and Pyongyang were at a stalemate.

    "With North Korea and the US remaining stalemated, there is an even bigger need for an inter-Korea summit," Kim Eui-kyeom, the spokesperson for the presidential Blue House, said at a press briefing.

    According to a UN report from earlier this month, North Korea has not stopped working on its nuclear programme despite Kim's vague commitment to "denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" - a far cry from long-standing US demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament. 

    As a result of its nuclear programme, North Korea has been under sanctions since 2006, when the country carried out its first nuclear test.

    In November 2017, the country said it had successfully developed a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States mainland.

    Following that announcement, more sanctions were imposed by the UN in December.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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