May 6 (UPI) -- The United States and South Korea concluded joint air force drills after two weeks of training, as the head of U.S. Forces Korea and South Korea's defense minister met informally to discuss North Korea provocations.
The drills, which the North previously criticized as a violation of inter-Korea agreements, are actually reduced in size this year and began in place of Max Thunder, one of the largest air force drills on the peninsula.
A South Korea military official confirmed Monday the exercises, which began on April 22, concluded on Friday, local paper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
The drills were reduced in scale as U.S. reinforcements did not participate, and U.S. strategic bombers did not fly near the peninsula. But the low-key exercise did not please Pyongyang, and last month North Korea accused the South of "betrayal."
"Through the treacherous actions of the South Korean authorities, the state of inter-Korea relations could return to the way they were before the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration," North Korea had said, more than a week before it launched short-range projectiles into the East Sea early Saturday.
Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland had also said a "response would be inevitable" because of South Korea's participation in a "military provocation with the United States," according to the Kyunghyang.
Seoul and Washington have made efforts to keep the drills low profile, and have renamed the training. Exercise Key Resolve to Alliance 19-1, and the August exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian was renamed Alliance 19-2.
Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commanding general of USFK, met with South Korean Defense Minister Chung Kyung-doo on Monday informally to discuss the North's short-range launch vehicles, according to Yonhap and other news agencies.
Both sides are analyzing the missiles launched on Saturday, according to News 1.