South Korea and the United States are not considering resuming their annual joint air exercise Vigilant Ace and, for the second consecutive year, will replace it with a reduced-size joint flight training, as announced, this Tuesday, officials of the Ministry of Defense and officers of the Air Force.
The two countries decided to suspend, last year, the Vigilant Ace mass exercises, with the purpose of supporting diplomatic efforts to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear programs.Instead, the two sides underwent a replacement exercise, called the Combined Flight Training Event.
Vigilant Ace maneuvers will be skipped again this year, so the two allies will carry out the joint replacement air exercise, just as they did last year, sources said.
The two sides are considering holding a joint exercise in winter to maintain a firm defense posture, but in a tight manner, to replace Vigilant Ace, an Air Force officer said, adding that the allies have already drawn up the related plans.
Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Yonhap News Agency, that they are not planning to skip the upcoming combined exercises and that the Combined Flight Training Event will proceed, as planned.
Vigilant Ace, started in 2015 under the name of the Peninsula Operational Preparation Exercise (Pen-ORE, according to its acronym in English), was held every year until 2017, mobilizing a large fleet of allied aircraft.
In the 2017 maneuvers, both sides mobilized around 270 aircraft, including radar evasive combat fighters, such as the F-22, F-35A and F-35B, in a demonstration of force against North Korea, which had launched a series of nuclear and missile provocations.
Seoul and Washington have canceled a series of combined exercises since last year, in the midst of peace efforts related to North Korea, in order to avoid provoking Pyongyang with the maneuvers that the communist country has long condemned time, as rehearsals for a war of invasion.
Efforts have been underway to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, although negotiations between North Korea and the United States on the North Korean nuclear weapons program have not progressed much for months.