US, South Korea to resume military exercises
Seoul, Jan. 26 (IANS): South Korea is set to resume joint military exercises with the US involving tens of thousands of troops from both sides after the Winter Olympics, an official said on Friday.
The US and South Korea agreed to put the annual military drills on hold after Pyongyang and Seoul held talks earlier in January for the first time in two years, CNN reported.
“Though it is too early to disclose the exact date and size of the planned joint exercises, they will be carried out after the Olympics,” said Choi Hyun-soo, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s Defence Ministry.
The exercises, codenamed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are carried out annually in March and April usually drawing a fierce response from the North Korean regime.
During last year’s drills, Pyongyang launched multiple missile tests and held a massive artillery exercise at the end of April.
The 2018 Winter Olympics close at the end of February while the Winter Paralympics wrap up with a closing ceremony on March 18.
A separate South Korean Defence Military official told CNN the joint exercises would not be scaled back despite the unusual delay.
“The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises will not be downsized nor exercises be merged into one,” he said.
An estimated 3,600 additional US service members were deployed to join the 28,000 US troops already based in South Korea during last year’s drills, which included ground, air, naval and special operations field exercises.
The US and South Korea maintain that the annual exercises, which have been carried out regularly for nearly 40 years, are strictly “defensive and non-provocative”.
The announcement came during a thaw in relations between the two Koreas, who will march together under a unified flag at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on February 9.
The diplomatic breakthrough followed face-to-face meetings between representatives from North and South Korea at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone on January 9.
The North Korean state media hailed the talks as “brilliant” for “national reunification”.