South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong made it clear that Washington’s supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the South Korean military has nothing to do with the resumption of South Korean-U.S. joint military drills.
Chung appeared at a general meeting of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Friday. When asked by main opposition People’s Party’s lawmaker Kim Seok-gi whether Washington is providing the South Korean military with vaccines because Seoul has declined to conduct joint drills’ citing Covid-19, the minister said, ”It is not meant as such,” adding, “The timing, scale, and method of South Korea-U.S. joint military drills will be determined through consultations between the military authorities of the two nations, separately from vaccine supply.”
By denying any link between the August joint military drills and Washington’s vaccine supply, Chung is believed to have suggested the possibility of reducing the scale of the drills. In the meeting with chiefs of ruling and opposition parties on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in also said, “I think it would be difficult to conduct large scale military drills due to Covid-19.”
When asked by People’s Power Party’s lawmaker Park Jin whether Seoul had discussed with Washington about vaccine supply in advance, Chung said, “I learned right before the summit that President Joe Biden would mention it during the summit talks,” adding, “Washington made the decision almost at the last minute.”
The minister also commented on the Tokyo Olympic Committee’s marking of South Korea’s easternmost islands of Dokdo as Japan’s territory in a map on its website. “We will never accept Tokyo’s ill-advised behaviors regarding the Dokdo issue,” he said. “We will take the strongest possible response measure.”
Oh-Hyuk Kwon firstname.lastname@example.org