South Korea, US to hold postponed military drills "as planned": USFK

South Korea to announce joint military drill plan with U.S. before April
South Korea to announce joint military drill plan with U.S. before April
Author

20 February, 2018

The U.S. and South Korea will announce plans for a joint military exercise after the Winter Olympics, according to the latter's defense minister.

The longtime allies had agreed to postpone the annual exercises until after the Winter Games in a bid to ease rising tensions with the nuclear-armed North, which considers them a rehearsal for an invasion.

Seoul and Washington intend to stage the now postponed annual joint military drills "as planned", United States Forces Korea (USFK) confirmed to NK News on Tuesday.

Analysts say the Games-driven bonhomie on the peninsula may not last long once the sporting festivals are over, particularly once Key Resolve, a command post drill, and the Foal Eagle theatre-level field exercise begin.

A restart of the joint drill is an "act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been now seen on the Korean Peninsula", North Korea's official KCNA news agency said in a commentary on Monday.

Asked when the two countries will hold their postponed military exercises, Song Young-moo told parliament he and his counterpart, Jim Mattis, would make an announcement after the Winter Paralympics being hosted by South Korea end on March 18 and before the start of April.

The ministry refused to confirm nor deny the report, while US Forces Korea said that Seoul and Washington planned to conduct the postponed drills "as planned".

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Pyongyang has already warned that it will not remain silent if Washington and Seoul continue with military exercises.

"The exercise was postponed according to the spirit of the Olympics", said Song.

Pyongyang, which has been slapped with a series of tough United Nations and unilateral sanctions, has seen its ties with Seoul thaw amid a "charm offensive" that saw North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatch his younger sister to the games to deliver an offer to host a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

It remains unclear if Moon might ask the US for an even further delay to the military exercises, but Michiel Hoogeveen, an independent researcher focusing on North Korea, called Tuesday's announcement "a great test" that could reveal both sides true intentions.

The North also criticized a smaller Warrior Strike training exercise with US and South Korean troops that was held before the Olympics, calling it "nothing but a provocative act of war maniacs".

"There is still a risk of conflict between North Korea and the US, but fortunately the two countries seem to have been feeling the need for dialogue lately", he said during a meeting with Slovenia's president, according to his office.

"It is a provocative act of chilling the active efforts of the DPRK and enthusiasm of the worldwide community to defuse tension and create a peaceful environment".


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