South Korea is reportedly lowering its guard amid the ongoing detente with North Korea.
South Korea has decided to suspend nationwide defense drills meant to prepare civilians for a possible North Korean attack, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. The move follows changes in “South-North relations and other security situations,” Minister of the Interior and Safety Kim Boo-kyum revealed. The summertime civil defense drills will be redesigned to emphasize readiness for the possibility of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, not a strike by a foreign military.
The Ulchi civilian drills have been held regularly since 1968.
There have long been questions about whether the drills actually prepared people for the realities of a North Korean attack, which could theoretically involve everything from rocket artillery to biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons. During the 2017 drills, much of the population of Seoul ignored the exercises, going about their business like normal. (RELATED: Here’s How South Koreans Are Reacting To The Threat Of Nuclear Destruction)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un twice in 2018 as the two sides work to implement the Panmunjom Agreement signed at the first inter-Korean summit in April.
The decision to suspend the civil defense drills comes on the heels of a major decision by the U.S. and South Korea to cancel joint military exercises. (RELATED: US, South Korea Suspend Summer War Games Amid Dialogue With North Korea)
President Donald Trump cited the costs, as well as the provocative nature of the drills, as justification for their suspension. The drills only cost about $14 million, a small fraction of the broader $700-billion defense budget.
South Korea is not the only regional country canceling its annual defense drills amid peace talks in Korea.
Japan recently suspended a number of missile evacuation drills as a fragile peace settles over Northeast Asia. (RELATED: Japan Suspends Missile Evacuation Drills As New Calm Settles Over Korea)
North Korea fired two Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles over northern Japan in 2017, raising alarms on the island nation.
While North Korea is talking about making peace, the country remains in possession of its nuclear weapons, as well as its arsenal of ballistic missiles.
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