The Trump administration has made it clear that it will go ahead with the planned joint military drill with South Korea after North Korea warned that the upcoming joint military drill would affect its working-level talks with the U.S. Washington said the joint military drill is the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula and it will not link military drills with denuclearization talks.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry condemned the “19-2 Dong Maeng” joint military exercise scheduled in August, saying that it would affect the working level talks between North Korea and the U.S. In response, Pentagon spokesman Dave Eastburn said South Korea and the U.S. are preparing for the joint military exercise slated for this fall.
In a written interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, the spokesman said the military drill has been adjusted in cooperation with South Korea in order to maintain military readiness and support diplomatic efforts for talks with North Korea, emphasizing that the joint military exercise demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula by strengthening South Korea-U.S. alliance and military readiness of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces.
In a written answer submitted for his Senate confirmation hearing, U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper said combined exercises are essential to maintain the readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea. He also stressed that joint military exercises ensure that the U.S. and South Korean armed forces can respond together to any potential North Korean military threat.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told reporters during a regular press conference that their position remains the same and they look forward to resuming working-level talks with North Korea. “From our perspective, we would hope that no one would try to block – in their government or in our government – the ability for President Trump and Chairman Kim to make progress on the commitments that they made to each other in Vietnam,” she added.
Ms. Ortagus went on to say that President Trump feels very confident about the meeting and the conversation he had with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone and hopes U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun will continue to make progress quietly behind the scenes. She added that the U.S. is going to give time and space to North Korea to make this happen.