SEOUL－The Republic of Korea will stage two military drills next week amid a thaw in relations with the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea, which have prompted Seoul and Washington to suspend joint exercises to spur nuclear talks.
The allies agreed last week to halt the Vigilant Ace air defense drills planned for December, after delaying August"s major annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises.
The move was intended to give the ongoing nuclear negotiations between the United States and the DPRK "every opportunity to continue", the Pentagon said.
To maintain defense readiness and boost jointness within the military, Seoul decided to carry out the Taeguk and Hoguk drills, its Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Taeguk is a command post exercise to be conducted from Monday to Friday, and the Hoguk field maneuver exercise will kick off on Monday for a two-week run around the South Han River, east of the ROK capital Seoul.
"This year"s exercise is to sustain balanced defense posture and improve the practice effects, considering the suspension of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian," the JCS said in a statement.
The defense chiefs of the ROK and the US will meet in Washington on Wednesday for their annual security consultative meeting, where they are expected to formally announce the suspension of the Vigilant Ace air defense drills.
On Friday, military generals of two neighbors on the Korean Peninsula held talks at the border village of Panmunjom within the Demilitarized Zone, the latest development in their rapidly improving ties.
ROK Major General Kim Do-gyun said before the meeting that the discussions will include establishing a joint military committee meant to maintain communication and avoid crises and accidental clashes. The planned committee is one of many inter-Korean commitments spelled out in the military agreement that was reached last month on the sidelines of a summit between DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un and ROK President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang.
The accord includes the halting of "all hostile acts" around their border including military exercises, a no-fly zone and the gradual pullout of guard posts, weapons and landmines within the DMZ.
Moon has described the military agreement as an important trust-building step that will reduce border tensions and create more space for larger US-led negotiations to denuclearize the DPRK.
As part of efforts to implement the agreement, the two neighbors completed the removal of guard posts and firearms within the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom on Thursday, the ROK Defense Ministry said.
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