Esper: US could alter military drills to boost NKorea talks




  • In World
  • 2019-11-13 19:21:56Z
  • By Associated Press
US Asia
US Asia  

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that he is open to the possibility of altering American military activities in South Korea if it would help advance a diplomatic deal with North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program.

In an interview with reporters flying with him to Seoul, Esper said any changes in military exercises or training would be done in ways that did not jeopardize troops' combat preparedness. And he said they would be done in consultation with the South Korean government.

He would not say what specific adjustments might be contemplated. The U.S. and South Korea already scaled back their 2018 and 2019 military exercises in the hope that it would help move North Korea toward agreement to give up its nuclear weapons. So far that has not worked.

"We will adjust our exercise posture, either more or less, depending on what diplomacy may require," Esper said, adding, "We have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats" in the nuclear talks.

North Korea has long objected strongly to large-scale American and South Korean military exercises, which it calls preparations for an invasion of the North. President Donald Trump also has criticized the exercises as too costly and provocative, but U.S. military commanders consider them crucial to deterring North Korea and ensuring that any invasion by the North would fail.

"As we consider adjusting - either dialing up or dialing down - exercises, training, stuff like that, we want to do that in close collaboration with our (South) Korean partners, not as a concession to North Korea but, again, as a means to keep the door open to diplomacy," he said.

Esper said he takes seriously North Korea's statement that the end of this year is a deadline for the U.S. to change its approach to the nuclear negotiations.

He said he is hopeful that diplomacy will prevail, given the history of tensions on the Korean Peninsula since the North Koreans began launching intercontinental-range ballistic missiles that could eventually be nuclear-armed.

Esper recalled his concern about the prospects for war on the peninsula when he became Army secretary in 2017.

"We were on the path to war," he said. "It was very clear to me because the Army was making preparations." He did not elaborate.

The U.S. has about 28,000 troops in South Korea, and Esper said they must be ready to fight the North at a moment's notice.

Esper also said that during his talks in Seoul this week with his South Korean counterpart, he will express U.S. concern about Seoul's stated plan to withdraw from an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan. Esper said the dispute between Tokyo and Seoul is only helping North Korea and China.

COMMENTS

More Related News

N Korea accuses S Korea of intrusion to find official
N Korea accuses S Korea of intrusion to find official's body
  • World
  • 2020-09-27 02:07:40Z

North Korea accused South Korea of sending ships across the disputed sea boundary to find the body of a man recently killed by North Korean troops, warning Sunday the alleged intrusion could escalate tensions. Officials in Seoul say the 47-year-old was likely attempting to defect to North Korea but little else is known about his motives.

North Korea warns of naval tensions during search for slain South Korean: KCNA
North Korea warns of naval tensions during search for slain South Korean: KCNA

North Korea said it was searching for the body a South Korean man killed by its troops, but warned that South Korean naval operations in the area threatened to raise tensions, state media reported on Sunday. The KCNA state news agency said on Sunday that North Korean authorities were considering ways to hand over the body to the South if it is found. The report called it an "awful case which should not have happened" but warned that South Korean naval operations near the site of the incident had crossed into North Korean waters.

South suggests unprecedented joint probe with North Korea into official
South suggests unprecedented joint probe with North Korea into official's death
  • World
  • 2020-09-26 12:57:00Z

"We have decided to make the request to North Korea to conduct additional investigations and also request for a joint-investigation," South Korea said.

S. Korea calls for N. Korea to further investigate shooting
S. Korea calls for N. Korea to further investigate shooting
  • World
  • 2020-09-26 03:27:54Z

South Korea said Saturday it will request North Korea to further investigate the killing of a South Korean government official who was shot by North Korean troops after being found adrift near the rivals' disputed sea boundary while apparently trying to defect. Seoul could also possibly call for a joint investigation into Tuesday's shooting, which sparked outrage in the South and drew a rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim was quoted as saying he was "very sorry" over what he described as an "unexpected, unfortunate incident" in a message sent by Pyongyang's United Front Department, a North Korean government agency in charge of inter-Korean relations.

Kim Jong Un offers
Kim Jong Un offers 'extremely unusual' apology to South Korea over killing of official
  • World
  • 2020-09-25 12:33:52Z

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology following the killing of a South Korean official.Kim in a message to South Korea on Friday said he's "deeply sorry that an unexpected and unfortunate thing has happened in our territorial waters" after a government official from South Korea was killed at sea by North Korean troops earlier this week, The New York Times reports. The official, South Korea said, was apparently "trying to defect to North Korea" and "was killed by troops in the North who set his body on fire for fear he might be carrying the coronavirus," the Times previously wrote. It was the "first time ​that North Korea has killed a...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World