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South Korea conservatives: Canceled joint drills 'worst' for security

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea conservatives: Canceled joint drills 'worst' for security
Joint exercises between the United States and South Korea are cancelled following the collapsed Hanoi Summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. South Korea's political opposition condemn the move. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, March 3 (UPI) -- South Korea's main opposition conservatives are slamming a joint decision to cancel annual military exercises scheduled to take place in March.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, the newly elected representative of the Liberty Korea Party, blamed President Moon Jae-in for the decision during a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday, local news service Money Today reported.

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Hwang said Moon has been "playing with words" when the president has described himself as a "driver" or "mediator" with regard to engagement with North Korea.

Hwang, a former justice minister under former President Park Geun-hye, said Moon should "return" to strengthening national security. He also said the president acted irresponsibly with regard to North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

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"The revelation of another nuclear facility other than Yongbyon, demonstrates how the current administration has been complacent and irresponsible," Hwang said, referring to the second uranium enrichment plant Trump mentioned at the press conference in Hanoi following the summit's collapse.

The conservative politician also criticized the suspension of the joint U.S.-South Korea drills commonly known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

The decision was reached bilaterally after President Donald Trump said in Hanoi the drills are costly for the United States. On Sunday Seoul's military confirmed the training was to no longer take place, following a 45-minute call between South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and Trump's acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

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Hwang said Monday the exercises were canceled through a single phone call between military chiefs, calling the move the "worst" decision for national security; North Korea still retains nuclear weapons, as well as conventional weapons that can target the South, he added.

The canceled drills are triggering debate in Seoul as Kim Jong Un returns to Pyongyang.

Newsis reported Monday Kim's train is en route to the Chinese border city of Dandong, where it is expected to arrive by Monday evening.

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Kim's armored train could arrive in China's northeastern Liaoning Province by 1 p.m., according to the report.

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