US, South Korea postpone military drills to bolster North Korea peace effort

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo shake hands prior to their meeting in Seoul on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 17 November 2019

US, South Korea postpone military drills to bolster North Korea peace effort

  • ‘I don’t see this as a concession. I see this as a good faith effort ... to enable peace’

The United States and South Korea announced on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

In deference to Pyongyang, the exercises had already been reduced in scale and scope from previous years, but North Korea still objected to them regardless.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US and South Korean militaries would remain at a high state of readiness, despite the move, and denied that the decision to postpone the drills was a concession to North Korea.

“I don’t see this as a concession. I see this as a good faith effort ... to enable peace,” Esper said, as he announced the decision standing alongside his South Korean counterpart in Bangkok, where Asian defense chiefs are gathered for talks.

The drills were meant to begin in the coming days.

Earlier this month, a senior North Korean diplomat blamed the US joint aerial drill for “throwing cold water” over talks with Washington. Pyongyang regularly opposes such US-South Korean joint military exercises, viewing them as a rehearsal for invasion.


Japan weighing visit by Iran’s President Rouhani

Updated 09 December 2019

Japan weighing visit by Iran’s President Rouhani

  • Japan has been trying to forge a possible mediator role as tensions rise between its ally US and Iran
  • If the trip is confirmed, Rouhani would become the first Iranian president to visit Japan since 2000

TOKYO: Japan is weighing inviting Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for a state visit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, as local media reported the trip was likely to happen this month.
Japan has been trying to forge a possible mediator role as tensions rise between its ally Washington and Tehran.
Local media has reported in recent days that Rouhani is likely to visit Tokyo around December 20, with some reports saying Washington has green-lighted the trip.
“A visit by President Rouhani to Japan is now under consideration,” Abe said at a press conference marking the end of the year’s parliamentary session.
“Japan, which has an alliance with the US and at the same time has maintained favorable relations with Iran for a long time, must forge its own path,” he said.
“I want to make diplomatic efforts as much as possible to help ease tensions and stabilize the situation in the region by continuing dialogue patiently,” he added.
If the trip is confirmed, Rouhani would become the first Iranian president to visit Japan since 2000.
Japan and Iran have maintained a good relationship despite recent regional turmoil, with resource-poor Japan heavily reliant on imports of oil from the Middle East.
Abe traveled to Iran in June and met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Rouhani. He met Rouhani again in New York during this year’s UN General Assembly.
The proposed visit comes as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington, despite a prisoner swap last week.
On Sunday, Rouhani announced a “budget of resistance” against US sanctions targeting the country’s vital oil sector.
US President Donald Trump began imposing punitive measures in May 2018, after unilaterally withdrawing from an accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program.