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Mattis says US won't suspend more military drills with S. Korea

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford speak to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon, on Aug. 28, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States does not plan to suspend more joint military drills with South Korean forces amid concern that North Korea's denuclearization has stalled.

"We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises," Mattis said at a news conference, adding that the Pentagon has not made decisions about major annual drills expected next year.

U.S. President Donald Trump in June suspended some joint military exercises with South Korea, which the North has repeatedly slammed as rehearsals for invasion. Washington and Seoul have maintained that the drills are defensive in nature.

Mattis said the suspension was a "good-faith measure" to support Trump's diplomatic efforts to follow up on a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore the same month.

Also Tuesday, CNN reported that Trump nixed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's planned visit to North Korea after Pyongyang sent a letter warning Washington that denuclearization talks are "at stake and may fall apart."

Pompeo reportedly received the letter from Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, on Friday morning, and showed it to Trump, who has since called off the top U.S. diplomat's trip to the North planned for this week.

Quoting three sources, CNN said the letter stated that the Kim Jong Un regime felt the process could not move forward because "the U.S. is still not ready to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty."

North Korea has insisted that the United States replace the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War. Washington, for its part, has countered that Pyongyang must first abandon its nuclear arsenal.

Despite its leader's commitment to "complete" denuclearization in the June summit with Trump, North Korea has yet to take credible measures toward giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

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