US, South Korea to Scale Back Spring Exercises

Mattis says reduced exercise won't threaten diplomacy

Though officials had previously been threatening a return to large-scale military exercises in South Korea, the Pentagon has once again agreed with South Korea to dramatically scale back a major exercise, in this case the spring 2019 wargames.

This is Foal Eagle, which is usually one of the major Korea wargames for the US, and usually a big source of tensions with North Korea. According to Defense Secretary James Mattis it will be scaled back enough that it won’t threaten ongoing diplomacy.

This may prove controversial, as Gen. Robert Abrams had recently told the Senate that the reduction in wargames was degrading the readiness of US military forces inside South Korea. Between that and some not being on board for North Korea diplomacy in general, this may see some resistance.

It’s unclear how the US and South Korea decided to scale this particular exercise back, though usually such actions have come at the behest of South Korea, who both has more to lose from foiling diplomacy, and has made side deals with the north to prevent any incidents fueling tensions.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.