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US and South Korea cancel military exercises as they work to improve relations with North Korea
President Donald Trump (R) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in gesture after signing a trade agreement at a bilateral meeting in New York on Sept. 24. The two countries have agreed not to hold joint military exercises, a move they hope will encourage North Korea to engage in meaningful dialogue. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

US and South Korea cancel military exercises as they work to improve relations with North Korea

The United States and South Korea have decided to suspend joint military exercises in order to better improve relations with North Korea.

Didn't Trump already cancel the exercise?

The exercise that was suspended was known as Vigilant Ace and was scheduled to take place in December.  The Vigilant Ace exercises last year involved 12,000 U.S. troops and 230 military aircraft from the U.S. and South Korea.

This exercise is different from the Freedom Guardian exercises that President Donald Trump canceled in June, before his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Kim has long objected to the military drills between the United States and South Korea, claiming that these games are merely preparations for an invasion.

In August 2017, he vowed “merciless retaliation” against one of these exercises. In March 2015, a spokesman for the North Korean People's Army general staff said that the exercises were proof that “the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching close to the brink of war” and that the only way to deal with “the aggression and war by the U.S. imperialists and their followers is neither dialogue nor peace. They should be dealt with only by merciless strikes.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said that this exercise was suspended by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo in order “to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue.” Mattis and Jeong had been meeting in Singapore when they made the decision to cancel the exercise.

What else?

South Korea and the United States are eager to encourage North Korea to abandon its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been in talks with the North Koreans to organize a second summit between Trump and Kim.

Trump has criticized these exercises in the past, saying in June that he “hated them from the day I came in” and that he thought canceling them “saved a lot of money.”

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