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    US soldiers take a position during their drill at a military training field in the border city of Paju on March 7, 2017. The US military has begun deploying the THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system to South Korea, US Pacific Command said, with its first elements arriving on March 6, to protect against threats from North Korea

    Seoul May Scale Back Joint Exercises With US if Pyongyang Gives Up Provocations

    © AFP 2017/ JUNG Yeon-Je
    Asia & Pacific
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    A special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Friday that if Pyongyang freezes its nuclear and missile development activities, Seoul in return may scale back its annual joint military exercises with the US.

    Moon said in a speech marking the 17th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit that the South is ready to recognize Kim Jong-un as the North Korean leader, and is open to dialogue

    "If North Korea suspends its nuclear and missile activities, then we may consult with the United States [on] scaling down ROK-US joint exercises and training," Moon Chung-in, presidential adviser on unification, diplomacy and security, said at a Woodrow Wilson Center seminar in Washington.

    "I think what [President Moon] has in mind is we may scale down deployment of American strategic weapons over the Korean Peninsula."

    According to the advisor, Seoul favors linking the North's denuclearization to the creation of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and resuming the six party talks. Moon stressed, however, that further provocations by the regime will not be tolerated.

    And at least one bone of contention between the two states is temporarily stalled anyway. The controversial THAAD missile defense system installed by the US could be held up by at least a year by the environmental assessment ordered by Moon, as the study should take into consideration the deployment's impact over a full seasonal cycle.

    Moon Chung-in also said the president believes Seoul should get back the wartime operational control of the South Korea-US allied forces, adding that US President Donald Trump "would love that idea."

    The adviser arrived in Washington earlier this week on a mission to improve understanding among American opinion leaders of the new government's foreign affairs and inter-Korean policy ahead of the summit between the two countries.

    North Korea is expected to be one of the top issues for the new South Korean president's June 29-30 meetings with Trump, with a focus on how to reconcile Trump's policy of "maximum pressure" on the North with Moon's hopes to foster peace through exchanges and cooperation with the neighbor.

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    Tags:
    military exercise, nuclear weapons, THAAD, Moon Jae-in, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), South Korea
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