B-52 bomber excluded from drills after North Korea complains

Published: May 16, 2018 at 9:49 AM

Elizabeth Shim

May 16 (UPI) -- Joint exercises between the United States and South Korea will move forward but the B-52 strategic bomber and eight F-22 Raptors will not be deployed during drills.

The decision to downscale the drills was reached between U.S. Forces Korea Commander Vincent Brooks and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo Wednesday, after North Korea criticized the joint exercise Max Thunder being held in the South, News 1 reported.

Pyongyang's criticism of the United States and South Korea came as a surprise to the South Korean military.

Song canceled all official activities on Wednesday to hold emergency meetings with Brooks and relevant ministries in response to the North's KCNA statement.

Brooks and Song's decision to reduce the size of the exercises came after a 30-minute meeting.

Max Thunder is an annual drill between the two allies and runs for 15 days from May 11 to May 25.

The exercises take place in air bases in Osan, outside Seoul, and also in a southwestern province.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning told Voice of America the purpose of the drills is to improve defense on the Korean Peninsula.

Those annual drills include Max Thunder and Foal Eagle, which took place in April.

North Korea did not condemn Foal Eagle during the weeks leading up to the inter-Korea summit on April 27.

KCNA questioned the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit on Wednesday.

The United States will "have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus," the statement read.

President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet on June 12 in Singapore.

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