South Korea and the United States have decided to suspend their joint military drills in response to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s request. However, Kim is visiting China without taking any specific corresponding action to implement denuclearization, fueling concerns that the scheduled follow-up meetings between Washington and Pyongyang could be negatively affected.
Both Seoul and Washington announced on June 19 that the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drill scheduled for August this year has been suspended. But they agreed to make a decision on the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills depending on progress in North Korea’s denuclearization efforts.
Joint US-South Korea military drills are suspended for the first time since Team Spirit was stopped in 1994 in accordance with the Geneva Agreed Framework. The UFG is suspended for the first time in 28 years. The White House confirmed on June 19 that the drill scheduled for August would be suspended as long as the North acted with goodwill.
In the meantime, Chinese news outlets reported that the North Korean leader will stay in China on June 19 and 20 to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Previously, they met in Beijing and Dalian in late March and early May, respectively. This time, they are likely to share the results of the recent U.S.-North Korea summit and call for the U.S. to ease its sanctions on the North prior to negotiations for denuclearization with the U.S.