US, South Korea kick off joint military exercises after hiatus
The U.S. and South Korea have resumed joint military exercises after halting the drills during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Yonhap News Agency reported local time Sunday that field exercises had kicked off. Nearly 12,000 U.S. troops will join around 300,000 South Korean soldiers for the joint exercises, the largest annual exercises between the two nations.
The duration of the operation, dubbed Foal Eagle, was shortened to a month, according to the report, due to the presence of the Olympics last month.
“I believe it would greatly help ensure the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games if you could express an intention to delay joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises during the Olympics in case the North does not make any more provocations,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in told President Trump last month, according to Yonhap.
The White House agreed, citing the need “to de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games.”
It’s unclear if joint military drills this month or in April will complicate Trump’s efforts to secure the denuclearization of North Korea, a goal he will discuss with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a summit in upcoming weeks.
The unprecedented meeting between a member of the Kim family and a sitting U.S. president was agreed to on the spot by President Trump earlier this month, shocking many in Washington and around the world.
As many as 12,200 U.S. troops are expected to be mobilized in late April for further drills in South Korea.
The Pentagon said last week that this month’s exercises are “at a scale similar to that of the previous years.”