U.S. and South Korea authorities could have agreed to change the name of a key joint military exercise held annually in August. The move could be being made to appease North Korea, according to South Korean press reports.
The joint drill known as Alliance 19-2, a new name for the exercises formerly called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, is to be renamed again. The name would include references to the purpose of the training, which would be to verify or check South Korean readiness for OPCON wartime operational control, Yonhap reported Sunday.
The new name would also leave out the word “alliance.”
The report comes about a week after North Korea warned U.S.-South Korea military exercises could impede progress in nuclear talks.
The North Korean foreign ministry had said on KCNA U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to suspend the drills during his most recent meeting with Kim Jong Un at Panmunjom. It is unclear whether South Korean President Moon Jae-in was directly briefed on the discussion or whether Trump and Moon jointly agreed on drill suspension.
Seoul and Washington are going forward with the drills, but the objective of the exercises would be to check interoperational capabilities between the two militaries, ahead of OPCON transfer. The training would take place for three weeks.
A South Korean government source told local paper Seoul Shinmun the purpose of future exercises is to check on bilateral readiness for the transfer of wartime operational control.
“The purpose of the U.S.-South Korea exercises in the second half of the year is to check the ability of the South Korea armed forces to take over wartime operational control,” the source said, according to the report.
A defense ministry representative told the same paper the two militaries are currently preparing for the upcoming August exercises.