South Korea, U.S. to resume joint military drills in April

By Jennie Oh  |  March 20, 2018 at 4:17 AM
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SEOUL, March 20 (UPI) -- South Korea and the United States have decided to resume their joint military drills next month, while reassuring North Korea that the exercises will be "defense-oriented."

The South Korean military announced Tuesday that Seoul and Washington's defense ministers agreed to launch the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve drills on April 1, after they were postponed to avoid an overlap with the Pyeongchang Winter Games period.

Earlier this year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked to hold off the exercises until after the Olympics and Paralympics Games in a bid to defuse tensions with North Korea and convince it to participate in the sporting event.

The North has long called for the scrapping of the drills, deeming them a rehearsal for invasion.

However, ahead of Seoul and Washington's respective summits with North Korea, the two allied forces appeared more mindful of Pyongyang.

Seoul says the United Nations Command notified North Korea's Korean People's Army on the schedule as well as the defensive nature of the annual exercises.

Pentagon spokesman Christopher Logan also said in a statement that are defense-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation.

He said the drills were not a response to any specific North Korean provocations or the current situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Some 12,200 U.S. troops and 10,000 South Korean soldiers will take part in the month-long Key Resolve drill, which include command and control exercises based on computer simulations.

The Foal Eagle exercise will kick off on April 23 with about 11,500 U.S. troops and 290,000 South Koreans involved in field training.

While the scale of the drills will be similar to those of previous years, the Foal Eagle drill will be a month shorter compared to last year.

According to Yonhap, South Korean officials denied that the drills will be "low key" this year.

"The purpose of the drills and the size of participating troops will be similar to those in previous years. The program will also be similar," a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official told reporters.

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