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South Korea's Moon Jae-in proposes postponement of drills

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea's Moon Jae-in proposes postponement of drills
South Korean President Moon Jae-in gives an interview with NBC News on a newly built high-speed train on Tuesday. Photo by Yonhap

Dec. 19 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in says he is open to postponing joint military drills during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Moon, who has called for at least two tracks of dialogue with the North in a time of unprecedented tensions, has previously said talks with North Korea could still take place and a "dialogue at the provincial level could also be held," if North Korea agrees to take part in the Winter Games.

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On Tuesday Moon told NBC News a North Korean willingness to refrain from weapons tests would be met with a postponement to drills that typically take place in February.

"If North Korea stops its provocations leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics, it will greatly help in holding a safe Olympics," he said. "Also, it will help in creating conducive atmosphere towards inter-Korean as well as U.S.-North Korean dialogue."

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Moon also said the drills postponement was proposed to Washington and that the proposal is currently under "review."

"It all this depends on how North Korea behaves," Moon said.

Joint drills Key Resolve and Foal Eagle require the participation of about 17,000 U.S. military personnel and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

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North Korea has frequently condemned the exercises, and China has blamed the drills for raising tensions with the belligerent North.

Moon's proposal of a drills postponement comes after the United States and South Korea completed an exercise simulating the removal of weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, in a war scenario where the two militaries would be tasked with the infiltration of the Kim Jong Un regime.

The war games took place from Dec. 12 to 15, South Korean news network YTN reported Sunday.

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According to YTN, hundreds of U.S. and South Korean troops were involved and armored vehicles deployed during Warrior Strike.

South Korea may be seeking the easing of tensions during the Olympics in order to reduce concerns about security during the Winter Games.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley previously told Fox News U.S. participation in the Winter Games remains an "open question," because of safety concerns, a remark that was later refuted by the White House.

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