July 11, 2018 10:35
The government has decided not to conduct the Ulchi civil defense drills designed to check nationwide readiness for a North Korean attack this year.
The decision came amid unprecedented rapprochement with North Korea. It will be the first time in 28 years that the drills do not take place.
Interior and Safety Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced the decision after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The government will come up with new defense drills for civilians, the government and the military that incorporates the Ulchi and Taegeuk command post exercise. The new drills will guard against terrorist attacks and natural disasters as well as North Korean attacks.
The Ulchi drills are the largest annual civil defense exercises and mobilize about 480,000 personnel from some 4,000 agencies, including municipal offices and public organizations.
They are not offensive drills unlike other military exercises designed to practice bringing down the North Korean regime, but the government still decided to halt them while dialogue with Pyongyang continues.
Fears are mounting that preparedness for a North Korean attack could be fatally weakened as joint South Korea-U.S. or South Korea's own military exercises are being canceled.
Earlier, Seoul and Washington agreed to halt the joint Freedom Guardian drills in August and the Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises in the wake of the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12.
The government pledged to minimize any security vacuum. "The Ulchi drills have been under fire for being largely perfunctory since they were cut to four days from a week," an expert from a government agency said. "It's possible that the drills will become more and more perfunctory if the concept changes next year."
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