South Korea
Amid the suspension of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, Seoul announced that it will be holding two military drills next week. In this photo, a South Korean soldier aims his rifle during an anti-terror drill at the National Assembly in Seoul, on the sidelines of a South Korea-US joint military exercise, Aug. 23, 2017. Getty Images/ Jung Yeon-je

Amid the suspension of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, Seoul has announced it will hold two military drills next week.

As diplomatic relations between the South and North Korea continue to thaw — the leaders of the neighboring nations having successfully held three summits this year — South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) declared they will carry out the Taeguk and Hoguk drills, which were aimed to maintain defense readiness and boost unity within the military.

"This year's exercise is to sustain balanced defense posture and improve the practice effects, considering the suspension of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian," the JCS said in a statement, Channel News Asia reported.

The Taeguk, a command post exercise, will commence Monday and continue till Friday, while the Hoguk field exercise is supposed to cover a two-week period beginning Monday. The latter will take place around the South Han River, east of the capital Seoul.

JCS Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki met his U.S. counterpart Joseph Dunford on Thursday in Washington for the Military Committee Meeting (MCM), ahead of the security consultative meeting scheduled for Oct.31, where the allies would formally announce the suspension of the Vigilant Ace air defense drills that the two sides were supposed to carry out together in December 2018.

In Thursday’s meeting, both the sides worked out the issues surrounding transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) — something that both the U.S. and South Korea had been working toward in the wake of North Korea’s security challenges and the acknowledgment of Seoul’s capabilities to lead wartime operations.

"(The two sides) approved and signed a set of agreements to guarantee the OPCON transfer," the JCS said, following the meeting, Yonhap News reported.

As part of their rapidly improving ties, North and South Korea military generals held talks at the border village of Panmunjom within the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), Friday, to discuss reinstating a joint military commission in accordance with a pact reached at September's summit between the leaders of both countries in Pyongyang.

The implementation of the agreement, reached between Pyongyang and Seoul during the summit, has already begun as the removal of guard posts and firearms within the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom was completed, Seoul's defense ministry said Thursday.

Apart from this, the two Koreas also agreed to set up maritime, air and ground buffer zones in front-line areas as part of reducing accidental clashes, building trust and reducing overall military tension between them. This included setting up a buffer zone in the Yellow Sea to suspend gun firing, maritime drills and establishing a no-fly zone in border areas.

“(The two sides) have decided to completely halt all hostile acts in all spaces, land, sea and air, and agreed on concrete measures to implement the decision," Seoul's defense ministry said in a press release in September.