US, South Korea delay military exercises as virus spreads

US, South Korea delay military exercises as virus spreads
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The U.S. and South Korea on Thursday announced that they would postpone annual joint military exercises due to the spread of the coronavirus in South Korea.

Officials from the two countries said at a news conference that the drills, which were supposed to take place during the first half of this year, would be postponed indefinitely, according to The Associated Press.

“Despite the postponement of combined training, the ROK-US alliance remains committed to providing a credible military deterrence and maintaining a robust combined defense posture to protect the ROK [Republic of Korea] against any threat,” U.S. military spokesman Col. Lee Peters told reporters.

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South Korea, with almost 1,800 reported cases, has the largest number of coronavirus infections outside of mainland China — where the outbreak began — the AP notes. Among those cases are 22 South Korean soldiers and one U.S. service member.

The latest move comes after South Korea quarantined 9,990 of its troops and prohibited the majority of its enlisted soldiers from leaving their bases.

The U.S. currently has 28,500 troops in the country, while South Korea's military is 600,000-strong.

Spread of the virus throughout both military populations has become a concern, due to their close quarters in the bases where they're jointly stationed.