Coronavirus threatens joint US-South Korea military exercises: reports

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The coronavirus is threatening joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, prompting officials to consider scaling them back, according to reports on Monday.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told reporters that the quickly spreading virus could disrupt their schedule for military exercises, The Associated Press and Reuters reported. These exercises are usually held throughout the year to help the militaries stay ready for potential combat with North Korea.

Esper told reporters that commanders of both militaries in Seoul “are looking at scaling back” exercises “due to concerns about the coronavirus,” adding he is confident the commanders will still protect the troops, the AP reported. 

Jeong described the epidemic as “quite serious” in South Korea. There are 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus within the South Korean military, and Jeong said the country is trying to limit the movement of its troops, according to Reuters.

“Because movement has been limited between units, the situation is limited,” Jeong said through an interpreter, according to the AP. 

South Korea has declared a health emergency, as 100 more cases were confirmed Friday.

As both countries deal with the virus, South Korea and the U.S. are attempting to negotiate how much Seoul should pay to fund U.S. troops to stay on the peninsula. The talks have stalled, as the last agreement expired at the end of last year. 

The U.S. is pushing for South Korea to pay more, as the current funds from the U.S. are scheduled to run out at the end of March.

Tags Coronavirus Mark Esper military exercises South Korea
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