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South Korea, US call off drill over fear of angering North

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Air Force F-16 fighter jets take part in a joint aerial drill exercise called "Vigilant Ace" between the US and South Korea, at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, December 6, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The US and South Korea have suspended another major joint war game, fearing it might anger North Korea which earlier this week accused Washington of an "evil" attempt to continue sanctions on Pyongyang. 

The termination of the military drill was announced by Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, saying Washington and Seoul will cancel joint aerial drills dubbed “Vigilante Ace,” which is typically held annually.

According to the report, the 2017 war games lasted one week and involved more than 200 war planes.

White, however, insisted that Pentagon chief James Mattis remains in regular consultation with his South Korean counterpart to ensure both forces are "ready to defend themselves if necessary," pointing out that their suspension of the drill will not affect their troop readiness in the Korean Peninsula.

She also pointed to a meeting between Mattis and defense chiefs of Japan and South Korean earlier in the week, adding that “they pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”

This is the second time a joint war game has been cancelled by the US military as Washington is attempting to reach a deal with North Korea.

The Trump administration has accused Pyongyang in recent weeks of not making adequate progress in giving up its nuclear armaments and shutting down its major weapon testing facilities.

The cancellation also comes amid recent reports that US President Donald Trump plans another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as well as Seoul’s efforts to ease sanction against the North.

At their first meeting in Singapore in June, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and US President Donald Trump signed a vaguely-worded pledge on denuclearization. (File photo)

North Korean state media blasted Washington earlier this week for an “evil” attempt to continue its sanctions on Pyongyang, accusing Trump of hindering progress in inter-Korean relations.

Washington was playing a "double game", read a commentary carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, adding that it was "little short of destroying" the rare diplomatic opportunity between the two.

"Hostile policy and reciprocity cannot go together," the article noted, insisting that negotiations would not move forward "an inch with an obstacle called sanctions."

"The US... is responding to good faith with evil," it further emphasized.

It was published just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang, insisting that he had "productive" talks on denuclearization with the North Korean leader.

However, following an earlier Pompeo visit to Pyongyang in July, the North issued an angrily-worded official Foreign Ministry statement slamming what it called his "unilateral" demands for its disarmament and describing them as "gangster-like."

The North has called for UN Security Council sanctions imposed over its weapons programs to be eased, pointing to its halt of nuclear and missile tests.

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