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US, South Korea cancel military exercise after criticism from North Korea

US, South Korea cancel military exercise after criticism from North Korea
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U.S. and South Korean military forces have indefinitely delayed a planned joint exercise that sparked harsh criticism from North Korea in what Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Court declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision MORE called “a gesture of goodwill,” according to The Associated Press.

Esper reportedly announced the delay during a joint news conference on Sunday with Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean counterpart, at a defense ministers’ conference in Bangkok.

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Esper said the postponement was not a concession to the North, but instead “a good-faith effort by the United States and the Republic of Korea to enable peace, to shape ... to facilitate a political agreement – a deal, if you will – that leads to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” according to the AP.

Esper reportedly said both the U.S. and South Korea urged Pyongyang to “demonstrate the same goodwill” and resume denuclearization talks “without precondition or hesitation."

“I see this as a good-faith effort by the United States and the Republic of Korea to enable peace, to shape ... to facilitate a political agreement – a deal, if you will – that leads to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said, adding that the U.S. and South Korean militaries “will remain at a high state of readiness.”

Despite the gesture, North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it has no plans to negotiate over denuclearization unless the U.S. first puts the end of “hostile” policies toward North Korea on the table, and accusing the U.S. of attempting to isolate the North with its support for a recent United Nations resolution that condemned North Korean human rights violations, the AP reported.


Japan’s defense minister, Taro Kono, told Esper that “no one could be optimistic about” making meaningful changes to North Korea’s conduct, according to the news service.