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US, S Korea Suspend Joint Drills to Boost DPRK Denuclearization - Pentagon

© AP Photo / Lee Jin-manU.S. Army soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and South Korean soldiers take their position during a demonstration of the combined arms live-fire exercise as a part of the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States at the Rodriquez Multi-Purpose Range Complex in Pocheon, north of Seoul, South Korea. (File)
U.S. Army soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and South Korean soldiers take their position during a demonstration of the combined arms live-fire exercise as a part of the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States at the Rodriquez Multi-Purpose Range Complex in Pocheon, north of Seoul, South Korea. (File) - Sputnik International
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The news comes on the heels of the recent DPRK-US Summit in Hanoi. According to the Yonhap news agency, a permanent end to the annual joint US-South Korean military maneuvers near the Korean Peninsula could facilitate a much-anticipated denuclearization by North Korea.

The US Department of Defense confirmed Saturday the permanent end of two major joint exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

"Following close coordination, both sides decided to conclude the KEY RESOLVE and FOAL EAGLE series of exercises", the US Department of Defense (DoD) said in a readout of a phone call between US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo.

According to Yonhap, the allies agreed to maintain robust military readiness through new command post exercises.

READ MORE: UN Chief Hopes Denuclearization Talks With North Korea Continue — Spokesman

"The minister and secretary made clear that the alliance's decision regarding the adjustment of the exercise and drills reflects both countries' expectation to back diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions and achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through a final, full verified method", the South Korean Ministry said, cited by Yonhap.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers a question from a reporter during his meeting with Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi, Monday, March 26, 2018, at the Pentagon - Sputnik International
US, South Korea 2019 Foal Eagle Exercises Scaled Back For ‘Diplomacy' - Mattis
NBC News reported Friday, citing two unidentified DoD officials, that the annual exercises would be curtailed as part of the US President Donald Trump's efforts to reduce tensions with North Korea. However, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle could be replaced with smaller, mission-specific training drills, according to the US-based broadcaster.

In past years, Pyongyang has repeatedly slammed the US-South Korean drills as practice runs for a US-led invasion of the North, warning of a possible firm response to the maneuvers and military activity.

READ MORE: Study: Enough Uranium, Plutonium For 5-7 Nukes Made in North Korea Last Year

Following his historic June 2018 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, Trump, apart from sanctions relief, pledged to suspend annual military exercises in exchange for Pyongyang's efforts of a complete dismantling of the country's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump at the extended bilateral meeting in the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019 - Sputnik International
Analysts Suggest US, DPRK Negotiators Behind 'Failed' Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit
A second summit between Trump and Kim was held in Hanoi on February 27-28. The meeting finished several hours before scheduled with no agreement or declaration. Trump said afterward that he decided to leave the talks because Kim demanded full sanctions relief. North Korean and US State Department officials said, however, that Kim asked for partial sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling North Korea's main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

The abrupt end of the Hanoi summit raised concerns among the international community of further steps by Pyongyang on dismantling its nuclear and ICBM facilities. Notably, the US-based media, citing senior US officials, have repeatedly suggested that the US-DPRK talks on denuclearization stalled after the 2018 Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.

READ MORE: North Korea Restarts Plutonium Production Reactor

Pyongyang reportedly conducted its last missile launch in November 2017. In late April 2018, Kim announced that the country would suspend ICBM launches and missile tests ahead of summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump.

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