South Korea and the United States announced Saturday that they would indefinitely suspend the joint Korea Marine Exchange Program (KMEP) along with the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills. The South Korean army explained the decision was made by the two countries after a close discussion as a part of measures taken after the North Korea-U.S. and inter-Korean summit meetings.
But controversy spiraled out when the U.S. army was reported to have arbitrarily suspended the program. According to the report, South Korea and the United States had no discussion on the issue and the South Korean marine did not know about the suspension at all until right before the announcement. As a result, the South Korean army had to repeat what was announced by the U.S. Department of Defense.
“The United States is more or less leading the decision, considering the negotiation with North Korea,” said a South Korean army insider. The latest announcement will suspend two programs to be held between July and September out of eight remaining programs, while 11 out of 19 KMEPs that had been planned for this year were finished.
In the meantime, the Korean army also said additional measures can be taken if North Korea continues on with the productive discussion. That is, Tongchang-ri missile site destruction or progresses in military talks may also suspend the Vigilant Ace (Air Component Exercise) planned in November, Key Resolve (KR) and Foal Eagle (FE) in March next year.
Sang-Ho Yun email@example.com