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South Korea, US defense chiefs to discuss details of joint drills next week

South Korean and US defense chiefs will hold talks in Seoul next week to discuss the future of the allies’ joint military drills following the suspension of the scheduled Freedom Guardian exercise, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The meeting between Defense Minister Song Yong-moo and his US counterpart Jim Mattis will take place Thursday during the Pentagon chief’s one-day trip to South Korea, according the ministry.

Scheduled to visit China ahead of his visit to Seoul, Mattis will meet with Song to work out the “details” of the allies’ regular training drills scheduled to follow the Freedom Guardian exercise slated for August, the ministry added.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Yonhap
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Yonhap

“I think it is likely to happen,” said the ministry’s spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said during a regular briefing, responding to the question as to whether the two defense chiefs would discuss the prospect of the joint exercises.

South Korea and the US militaries said Tuesday that they decided to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise, but added that no decisions were made regarding the allies’ other regular training exercises.

According to the Military Times, Mattis said Wednesday he would meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on the issue of the military exercises to “sort out some of the details.”

The Pentagon chief added that he would take up the issue again with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo in Seoul. It is their second meeting in less than a month. They held talks in Singapore on June 2 on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum.

“We are meeting on Friday morning over here on this issue and then when I come out of Beijing next week I’ll go into Seoul,” Mattis said. “Usual close consultation ongoing as we sort out the way ahead.”

By Yeo Jun-suk(