The United States and South Korea announced yesterday they will postpone military drills in an effort to reboot a peace push with North Korea. And Washington denied it was a concession to Pyongyang.
What is known as the Combined Flying Training Event would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of aircraft.
In deference to Pyongyang, the exercises had already been reduced in scale and scope from previous years, but North Korea still objected to them.
United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US and South Korean militaries would remain at a high state of readiness despite the move, adding: "I don't see this as a concession. I see this as a good faith effort ... to enable peace.
"Creating more space for our diplomats to strike an agreement on the denuclearization of the peninsula is very important."
In a meeting with Esper and South Korea's Jeong Kyeong Doo in Bangkok, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono cautioned against optimism and called for the three nations to ensure military readiness.
"No one could be optimistic about North Korea," Kono said.
"North Korea has launched more than 20 missiles this year, including new types of ballistic missiles as well as a submarine-launched ballistic missile."