Tillerson: Not aware of plans to curb joint military drills with South Korea
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that he is not aware of any plans to postpone joint military exercises with South Korea or Japan ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“I’m not aware of any plans to halt our long-standing and scheduled and regular military exercises with our partners in South Korea — the Republic of Korea — or our partners in Japan,” he said, speaking at a joint news conference with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“These exercises have been ongoing for many years,” Tillerson said. “They’re carried out on a scheduled basis. We announce them in advance. There’s nothing surprising about them, and I’m not aware of any plans to change what is scheduled.”
Tillerson’s comments came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in an interview with NBC News that Seoul and Washington are considering delaying the annual military drills to help ease tensions with North Korea ahead of the Winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“It is possible for South Korea and the U.S. to review the possibility of postponing the exercises,” Moon said. “I’ve made such a suggestion to the U.S., and the U.S. is currently reviewing it. However, all this depends on how North Korea behaves.”
Bloomberg News reported last week that the U.S. and South Korea were considering curtailing the spring military exercises, but that no final decision had been reached on the matter.
The Defense Department told The Hill on Tuesday that it could not comment on any upcoming exercises.
Questions about security at the 2018 Winter Olympics have emerged amid apparent advancements in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Pyongyang conducted its most recent missile test late last month, firing what is believed to be its most advanced rocket to date.
–Ellen Mitchell contributed reporting.