Washington and Seoul will be scaling back the joint Foal Eagle military exercises scheduled for the spring of 2019 in order to avoid disrupting ongoing denuclearization talks with Pyongyang, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced Wednesday.
Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that Foal Eagle will be “reorganized a bit to keep it at a level that will not be harmful to diplomacy,” adding that it would be “reduced in scope.”
Mattis did not offer additional details regarding how either country would be scaling back the drills, nor did he say if any decisions have been made about other potentially problematic exercises in the region.
The Foal Eagle drills, which involve a combined force of ground, air, naval and special operations troops, take place every spring, and they’re not the only exercise to have been recently altered. According to Stars & Stripes, both the US and South Korea have canceled their last four large-scale drills so as to keep talks with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ongoing.
With the suspension of both the Ulchi Freedom Guardian and the Vigilant Ace air force training exercise, US defense officials have raised concerns regarding the forces’ readiness should cancellations continue.
US Army Gen. Robert Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September that repeatedly canceling military exercises would lead to a “slight degradation” in American combat readiness, Defense News reported at the time.