In a show of good faith, the United States and South Korea have decided to hold off upcoming joint military exercises to promote denuclearisation efforts in the Korean Peninsula, the US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said on Sunday.
The decision was taken to encourage North Korea to reciprocate denuclearisation efforts, the US official added.
Esper made the statement at a joint press conference with his South Korean counterpart on the margins of a regional security meeting in Bangkok.
"After close consultation and careful consideration, Minister Jeong (Kyeong-doo) and I've jointly decided to postpone this month's Combined Flying Training Event," Esper said, as quoted by Yonhap news agency.
According to the Pentagon chief, the two sides "made this decision as an act of goodwill to contribute to an environment conducive to diplomacy and the advancement of a peace."
"We encourage the DPRK (North Korea) to demonstrate the same goodwill as the considerate decision on conduct of training, exercise and testing," he added, urging North Korea "to return to the negotiating table without precondition or hesitation."
After the first US-North Korea summit in June 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he intended to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, calling them expensive and inappropriate in dialogue with Pyongyang.
The allies have since canceled several drills that North Korea deems as a provocation. The wintertime air exercise in question, code-named Vigilant Ace, was for the first time suspended last year.
However, the talks have since reached a deadlock, with Pyongyang calling for more flexibility on the part of Washington, particularly with regard to sanctions relief. In October, North Korea gave the US until the end of 2019 to come up with a mutually acceptable deal to advance the denuclearisation process.
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