Scaled-back US-South Korea drills to begin amid tensions with Pyongyang

Scaled-back US-South Korea drills to begin amid tensions with Pyongyang
© Getty Images

U.S. and South Korean forces will conduct scaled-back joint military training exercises this week due to the coronavirus amid tensions with Pyongyang. 

The drills, set to last from Aug. 18-Aug. 28, primarily incorporate computer simulations of several possible scenarios, including a North Korean attack, The Associated Press reported. The start of the exercises was delayed by two days because a South Korean officer tested positive for coronavirus, according to Reuters, which cited local media.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in an announcement on Sunday did not specify how many troops will participate in the exercises. However, due to the pandemic, the number of U.S. troops who can be brought in from abroad will be limited. In past years, the drills have involved tens of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, as well as field training on top of the computer exercises.


The U.S. and South Korea initially canceled spring exercises due to a coronavirus outbreak in the South Korean city of Daegu. Although that outbreak was under control by April, another resurgence has since emerged in the Seoul metropolitan area, the AP noted. U.S. Forces Korea has since barred all personnel who do not live in the area from the capital region.

On Sunday, South Korea reported 279 new cases of the virus, the highest single-day increase since the beginning of Match, according to the AP. Since February, about 150 infections among U.S. troops have been reported.

North Korea has long condemned the yearly drills as a deliberate provocation, and the scaled-back version is expected to provoke the same reaction. Pyongyang officials have threatened to exit the already-stalled nuclear negotiations with Washington if what North Korea calls “hostile” U.S. policies persist.

President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks MORE, meanwhile, has criticized the joint exercises with South Korea as cost-ineffective. The president has similarly critiqued the price tag of keeping nearly 29,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, and the two nations have yet to renew a cost-sharing agreement that expired at the end of last year.