The US and South Korea have indefinitely suspended two exchange programme training exercises in light of an agreement reached between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a summit in Singapore earlier this month.
Defence Secretary James Mattis suspended the exercises "to support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said on Friday.
She added: "This includes suspending Freedom Guardian along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months.”
Ms White said additional decisions would depend upon North Korea “continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith”.
The announcement came after Mr Mattis met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford, and national security advisor John Bolton to discuss ways to implement the results of the Singapore summit, according to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon previously announced the suspension of Freedom Guardian earlier in the week, as Mr Kim travelled to China to brief President Xi Jinping on his meeting with Mr Trump. South Korea confirmed the suspension of the Freedom Guardian drill at the time, but said no decision had been made about other, forthcoming drills.
The US agreed to halt joint military exercises with South Korea during the Singapore summit earlier this month, in exchange for Mr Kim’s pledge to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Mr Trump at the time called the drills “very provocative,” and claimed that halting them would save the US a “tremendous amount of money”.
“We will be stopping the war games”, Mr Trump said.
The announcement appeared to take some at the Pentagon by surprise, and the Freedom Guardian drills – scheduled to take place in August – were not officially cancelled until a week later.
The drills were meant to help South Korean and American troops prepare for a possible attack from the North, and have been a chief complaint of Pyongyang’s for years. North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile during last year’s Freedom Guardian exercises, and carried out its fifth-ever nuclear test days later. Mr Kim threatened to pull out of the Singapore summit over a similar exercise earlier this year.
The US and South Korea previously suspended joint military exercises in the 1990s, when the North announced its intention to sign a nuclear safeguards accord and accept international inspections. They also agreed to delay certain military exercises during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics this year.