South Korea and the United States have not yet decided when and how to conduct an annual summer exercise, the Department of Defense said Monday after North Korea warned the exercises will tarnish the future of inter-Korean relations.

On Sunday, Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un, issued a statement saying the combined exercise came after “such a crucial time” as efforts to improve inter-Korean relations Long Divided Cross Border lines of communication were restored last week.

Defense Department spokesman Boo Seung-chan said when and how to conduct the exercises, adding that these issues need to be decided by Seoul and Washington.

“South Korea and the US are holding close consultations, considering related situations,” Boo said at a regular news conference, citing the pandemic, a common defense stance, the transfer of operational control during the war, and denuclearization efforts as some of the factors that are considered consideration.

The annual summer military exercise, usually held in August, was the focus of attention as it was feared it could undermine the conciliatory sentiment that has emerged as inter-Korean communication channels have been restored.

Pyongyang has long resisted such combined exercises and branded them as samples for the invasion.

“Our government and army will closely monitor whether the South Korean side conducts hostile war exercises or other bold decisions in August,” Kim said in a statement on Sunday.

On Friday, Secretary of Defense Suh Wook spoke on the phone with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, and reiterated their commitment to a strong mutual readiness.

When asked if Seoul could propose holding inter-Korean defense talks to discuss the issue, Boo said they had no such plans at the moment. (Yonhap)