US and South Korean troops take part in joint military training exercises earlier this year. Photo: Seung-il Ryu / NurPhoto
US and South Korean troops take part in joint military training exercises in 2018. Photo: Seung-il Ryu / NurPhoto

The United States and South Korea have decided to suspend yet another joint major military exercise in a continued push for diplomacy with North Korea, Voice of America (VOA) reported on October 19.

The joint air exercise, called Vigilant Ace, will be suspended to “give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” VOA quoted chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White as saying.

The decision was made public following trilateral talks between US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. They are in Singapore attending an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense ministers’ meeting.

The suspension of Vigilant Ace follows a number of US military decisions in the past year aimed at persuading North Korea to negotiate a verifiable path to giving up its nuclear weapons, VOA reported.

The first US-South Korean exercise to be suspended was Foal Eagle to avoid a clash with this year’s Winter Olympics, which were held in South Korea and attended by the North.

After that, the US and South Korea suspended another joint exercise, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, that had been scheduled for August. That cancellation came after the meeting between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.

Trump had then announced that the US would stop what he called “provocative” and “expensive” was games with South Korea. The now suspended Vigilant Ace joint exercise is usually held in December.