Amid wide speculation regarding the joint military exercise of South Korea and the U.S. for August, sources familiar with the matter believe the annual summertime drill will go ahead as planned but in a condensed form due to the pandemic.
Sources say the run-up to the upcoming exercise is scheduled to be held for four days starting next Tuesday followed by a computer-based simulation classified as Combined Command Post Training that doesn't involve the mobilization of troops or equipment slated for August 16th until the 26th.
However, Seoul's defense ministry reiterated Thursday that details regarding the exercise are still being discussed.
"I repeat again that the duration, volume and method of the exercises have not been finalized. South Korea and the U.S. are in close consultation regarding these details with various conditions in mind."
Such indefinite responses from the defense ministry and from President Moon Jae-in, who instructed South Korea's defense chief Wednesday to have "prudent consultations" with the U.S. on whether to stage their joint military exercise this month as scheduled, suggests to one expert that the government is weighing up whether to halt or postpone the exercises.
"The wording used by the defense ministry pointing to the coronavirus or the Korean Peninsula peace process in regards to the exercises signifies that they could be postponed or halted."
Some 60 lawmakers in the ruling party are calling for a postponement so to not antagonize North Korea, which has long opposed the drills.
Another expert pointed out that caving in to the North's demands would lead to a bad precedent being set for South Korea in the future.
"North Korea calling for a halt in the joint drill as stated in Kim Yo-jong's statement followed by a full restoration of direct communications with South Korea it's a classic tactic used by North Korea. Once the South caves to its demands, it'll set a bad precedent."
South Korea and the U.S. had postponed its joint military exercise for March 2020 due to the pandemic while the combined exercises conducted last August and March this year were scaled-down from previous years.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.