Japan says plans for joint drills with U.S. unchanged

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

June 20 (UPI) — Japan says the suspension of an annual joint drill between South Korea and the United States does not affect Tokyo’s plans for training with the U.S. armed forces.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday at a regular press briefing the U.S. defense commitment to Japan and its allies is unchanged, the Mainichi Shimbun reported, following a decision to suspend all plans for the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises at the Pentagon.

“It is my understanding there is no change in the Japan-U.S. alliance and the U.S. Forces Japan system,” Suga said. “We will continue to work with the United States and South Korea for peace and stability in the region.”

The decision to scrap plans for joint drills on the peninsula came after Trump said on Twitter, and at the post-summit press conference in Singapore, the drills were expensive and “very provocative.”

The Pentagon said Monday the decision to suspend drills is “consistent with President Donald J. Trump‘s commitment to North Korea and in concert with South Korea.”

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the decision to cancel the exercises might have been made as a diplomatic gesture, following the Singapore summit, according to NHK.

Onodera also said Tuesday he would ask the United States and South Korea to continue drills to maintain deterrence, according to the report.

“North Korea has not yet taken concrete steps to abolish nuclear weapons and missiles,” Onodera said. “The perception that North Korea could be a threat to Japan’s security has not changed.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would like to meet with Kim Jong Un, but a date for a summit has not been finalized.


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