The United States and South Korea announced on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
In deference to Pyongyang, the exercises had already been reduced in scale and scope from previous years, but North Korea still objected to them regardless.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. and South Korean militaries would remain at a high state of readiness despite the move, and denied that the decision to postpone the drills was a concession to North Korea.
“I don’t see this as a concession. I see this as a good faith effort ... to enable peace,” Esper told reporters, as he announced the decision standing alongside South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo in Bangkok, where Asian defense chiefs are gathered for talks.
Earlier this month, a senior North Korean diplomat blamed the U.S. joint aerial drill for “throwing cold water” over talks with Washington. Pyongyang regularly opposes such U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, viewing them as a rehearsal for invasion.