US, South Korea Suspend Vigilant Ace Exercise

The next installment of the Vigilant Ace, an annual joint exercise by the US and South Korea, has been suspended. Vigilant Ace 18, an elephant walk from which is shown above, began last December. Air Force photo by SSgt. Franklin R. Ramos.

The US and South Korea on Friday will suspend another major exercise—this time Vigilant Ace—following President Trump’s June summit with Kim Jong Un.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo announced the decision during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore in an effort to let the diplomatic process continue with the end goal of denuclearization on the peninsula.

“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. “They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”

The US and South Korea earlier this year cancelled other large exercises such as Foal Eagle following the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.

Last year’s Vigilant Ace included 12,000 US personnel from the US along with the Republic of Korea Air Force. The “realistic air combat exercise” included 230 aircraft at eight locations. US aircraft participating included F-22s, F-35s, F-16s, F-15s, B-1s, F/A-18s, E/A-18s, and F-4s, according to Pacific Air Forces.

Planning for the exercise began in 2013 to focus on more tactical drills, as opposed to strategic exercises such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian and Key Resolve. The exercise was first held in 2015, with the aim to practice the pre-positioning air tasking order simulating the first few days of a potential conflict.