US, South Korea to postpone military drills over coronavirus

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The U.S. and South Korean militaries have been postponed joint exercises as concerns continue to grow over the coronavirus.

The exercises were scheduled to be held in March but officials decided to postpone the drills in light of the “government’s declaration of the highest alert level “severe” on COVID-19,” the Combined Forces Command said in a statement.

“ROK-US alliance assesses the decision to postpone the training will adhere to and support South Korea’s containment and mitigation plan for COVID-19,” the statement reads.

The news comes a day after the U.S. military confirmed a soldier stationed in South Korea had tested positive for the virus.

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On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said both countries were looking to scale back some training in response to the outbreak. Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said the exercise schedule had been threatened by the illness, which began in China and has infected more than 80,000 worldwide and claimed more than 2,700 lives.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries regularly hold drills, which have drawn the ire of North Korea. The North sees the exercises as a form of aggression. Meanwhile, the U.S. has around 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

The country has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases, with more than 1,100 infections and at least 11 deaths. The 23-year-old American service member who became infected is stationed at Camp Carroll, near the city of Daegu, where most of the country’s coronavirus cases have been clustered.

He is being treated at Camp Humphreys near Seoul.

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South Korea has suspended some unilateral field training, placed 9,570 troops under quarantine and banned most of its enlisted soldiers from leaving their bases. The U.S. military is also urging its personnel to avoid handshakes and large gatherings if possible.

On Monday, United States Forces Korea said a 61-year-old widowed dependent tested positive for the virus as well.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Article source: https://www.foxnews.com/us/us-south-korea-to-postpone-military-drills-over-coronavirus