US and South Korea resume low-level military exercises before talks with North Korea

The United States and South Korea will begin small-scale military exercises on Monday just days before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's meeting with North Korean officials to discuss de-nuclearization and plans for a second summit between the two countries.

PHOTO ARCHIVE: The South Korean Marines during a military exercise as part of the annual joint military training called Foal Eagle between South Korea and the US in Pohang, South Korea, April 5, 2018. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji / Photo Archive

The Korean Maritime Exchange program was among the training sessions suspended indefinitely in June when US President Donald Trump met with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore and promised to end the joint US-South Korean military exercises often criticized by the North.

A spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Defense confirmed that a training tour would begin near the southern city of Pohang without expecting access to the media.

About 500 US and South Korean sailors will be involved in maneuvers, Yonhap news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Pompeo, interviewed by CBS's Face The Nation, said he would be in New York at the end of this week to meet with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong-chol.

"I expect that we will make some real progress, including the effort to ensure that a summit is held between our two leaders, where we can make substantial steps towards nuclear de-nuclearisation," Pompeo said.

In Washington last week, the South Korean defense minister said Washington and Seoul would make a decision by December for important joint military exercises in 2019. Ace aggressive earlier this month is one of many such exercises that have been stopped to encourage dialogue with Pyongyang.

However, the biggest wartime warfare warfare ever held in Japan and around Japan has advanced with the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear aircraft connecting Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship in the ocean from Japan – another key factor in the effort to press North Korea.

North Korea warned on Friday that it could resume development of its nuclear program if the United States does not abandon the "maximum pressure" and sanctions campaign.

"Improving relations and sanctions is incompatible," a foreign ministry official said in a statement released by the state-run news agency KCNA. "The US believes that repeated" sanctions and pressures "lead them to" de-nuclear ". We can not help laugh at such a silly idea."

North Korea has not tried a ballistic missile or nuclear weapons for nearly a year and has said it has shut down the main nuclear test plant with plans to dismantle many other facilities.

In recent weeks, North Korea has been pushing harder for what it sees as mutual concessions from the United States and other countries.

"As it turns out, the US is absolutely responsible for all the problems on the Korean peninsula, including the nuclear issue, and therefore the very cause of it has to revolutionize its hub," the statement said Friday.

US officials remain skeptical about Kim's commitment to resigning from the nuclear arsenal he has already gathered, and Washington says he will not support the alleviation of international sanctions until more progress is made.

Pompeo, an interview on Fox News Sunday television, said Trump's administration wanted a full, verifiable nuclear-denationalization of the Korean Peninsula. He added that Trump insists that "there is no financial relief until we reach our ultimate goal."

South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, has forged his efforts to work with North Korea in recent months, raising the US's concerns that Seoul could weaken pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Report by Josh Smith and Joyce Lee. Additional reports from Richard Cowan in Washington. Editing by Catherine Evans and Lisa Shumaker

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