South Korea has tentatively decided to conduct the upcoming military exercise with the United States as planned, albeit in a scaled-down manner due to the pandemic, sources said on Sunday, although North Korea has warned the maneuvers will affect inter-Korean relations.
Whether and how the summer exercise should be carried out has attracted a lot of attention, especially after Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un, warned that the exercises will dampen the conciliatory mood that followed the restoration of longstanding hotlines originated with the south in Pyongyang.
“We are working to carry out the exercise as planned, which is required regularly and for joint readiness. We have had close consultations with the US on the matter, ”a government source said.
The computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) is expected to take place August 16-26, which is likely to come after a four-day crisis management staff training session slated to begin Aug. 10, another source said.
North Korea has long railed against such exercises and condemned them as a test for an invasion.
“The upcoming exercise would include a minimum level of troops, even smaller than in the spring, and there will be no outdoor exercises,” the source said, noting that the Department of Defense decided on Friday to implement the toughest antivirus program for the entire military population as of August 22 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea has seen a dramatic increase in confirmed cases across the country since the end of last month, with the daily case count hitting 1,700 for the third straight day on Friday.
The two sides withdrew the spring exercise in March amid the virus situation and peace efforts with North Korea. At the time, the Department of Defense enforced the second lowest social distancing program for the military, with the daily caseload across the country being around 400.
The Department of Defense said that outdoor maneuvers were conducted year-round, rather than intense at one point in time.
Department spokesman Boo Seung-chan said it was still discussing details on the matter with the US while the circumstances surrounding it are being closely monitored. Last week, President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to restore long-disconnected lines to improve chilled cross-border ties, and some ruling party lawmakers and civic groups here have called for the cancellation or postponement of the combined exercise. (Yonhap)