WASHINGTON, D.C./SEOUL – The United States postponed its wargames with South Korea on Thursday as concerns continue to grow over the coronavirus. The combined command announced an upcoming “command post-training” conducted by members of the two militaries’ Combined Forces Command will be postponed “until further notice”, World News reported.
The joint military drills were scheduled to be held in March. The announcement came after the US military reported its first case of the coronavirus on Wednesday in a 23-year-old soldier based near the South Korean city of Daegu. South Korea reported another 334 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, pushing the total to 1,595, the most in any country other than China.
The South Korean military reported a number of infections among its troops. Pentagon Chief Mark Esper has stated that both countries’ militaries were looking to scale back “some training” in response to the outbreak, which has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide and killed more than 2,700.
The Pentagon told Congress on Wednesday it was reviewing the possibility it may need additional funding to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, hours after the US military reported a soldier in South Korea had become infected.
“It is spreading and we can’t give you a definitive answer on whether we’ll need additional resources or not,” Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated, addressing a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.
“We owe you some answers,” he added.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday night that everything was on the table, hinting at restricting travel to and from South Korea, Italy and other countries where the number of infections have exploded since the last week.
“At some point, depending on what happens, we may cut certain additional countries off, like we’ve had to do with China, and we hope we can open it up to China soon as possible,” Trump added.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now 60 people in the US who have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
North Korea sees the regular US-South Korea wargames as aggression and a rehearsal for invasion. Pyongyang had threatened to retaliate against this year’s wargames at a time of its stalled denuclearization talks with the US. Rounds of negotiations with the US have ground to a halt as Washington refused to offer any sanctions relief despite Pyongyang’s unilateral steps to show its goodwill in denuclearization efforts.