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Mattis: US, South Korea could reduce scope of 'Foal Eagle' military exercise

By
Wooyoung Lee
South Korean marines participate in the Ssangyong Exercise as part of the annual Foal Eagle combine field training in Pohang, South Korea, on April 5. Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE
South Korean marines participate in the Ssangyong Exercise as part of the annual Foal Eagle combine field training in Pohang, South Korea, on April 5. Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The United States and South Korea could reduce the scope of one of the largest annual joint military exercises, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Wednesday.

The "Foal Eagle" exercise, scheduled for next spring, will be "reorganized a bit at a level that will not be harmful to diplomacy," according to Mattis, CNN reported.

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The "Foal Eagle" is a combined field training exercise, involving ground, air, naval and special operations troops to simulate war scenarios, including North Korea's provocation. Some 23,700 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean forces participated in this year's drill in April, according to the Pentagon.

The annual joint military exercise was postponed a month for Winter Olympics, which took place in South Korea in February. It was also to help ease tensions when diplomatic efforts were gathering to resume talks between North and South Korea.

Since the Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the United States and South Korea have suspended or delayed major regular military exercises.

North Korea has strongly criticized U.S.-South Korea's joint military exercises and blamed them for escalating military tensions.

Pentagon said that Mattis and his counterpart South Korea defense minister agreed that military exercises should be conducted "in a manner that complements diplomatic efforts to achieve North Korea's denuclearization," Military.com reported.

Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said that the U.S. and South Korea will continue to review "size and scope" of their joint exercises, along with efforts for North Korea's denuclearization.

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