UPDATE : 2019.12.13 FRI 09:50
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Pentagon: S. Korea, U.S. preparing for joint exercise despite N.K.'s warning

South Korea and the United States are preparing to stage a joint military exercise this fall, the Pentagon said Tuesday, after North Korea warned the drill will affect the prospects of working-level nuclear talks between the two countries.

The North's foreign ministry issued the warning Tuesday, arguing that the "19-2 Dong Maeng" exercise, slated for around August, runs counter to the commitment that U.S. President Donald Trump made when he held a surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 30.

A U2 ultra high altitude reconnaissance aircraft takes off at the U.S.' Camp Humphreys base in Pyeongtaek, southwest of Seoul, on Aug. 21, 2017, in this file photo, on the first day of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise against North Korean provocations, a Korea-U.S. combined command-post drill that runs from Aug. 21-31.

"If the military exercise really goes ahead, it would affect the DPRK-U.S. working-level talks," the North said. "We will formulate our decision on the opening of the DPRK-U.S. working-level talks, while keeping watch over the U.S. move hereafter."

Asked about the U.S. stance, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said the exercise program was already adjusted in cooperation with South Korea in order to maintain their readiness posture and to support diplomacy with North Korea.

The spokesman added that this regular exercise shows the U.S. commitment to the South Korea-U.S. alliance and to the defense of the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul and Washington plan to hold the command post exercise around August in replacement of the summertime Ulchi Freedom Guardian as part of a reorganization of major exercises aimed at supporting peace efforts with the North.

Dong Maeng means alliance in English.

During the exercise, the two sides plan to test South Korea's initial operational capability (IOC) in an initial step to verify whether Seoul is on course to meet the conditions required for its envisioned retaking of wartime operational control of combined forces from Washington.

In March, the allies first launched the Dong Maeng exercise that replaced their springtime Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises. (Yonhap)

Kim Hyung-dae  edt@koreapost.com

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