S Korea to announce joint military drill plan with USA before April

S Korea to announce joint military drill plan with USA before April”

SOUTH Korea and the United States will announce plans before April for a postponed joint military drill, South Korea's defense minister said yesterday. Those talks eventually led to North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics, in Pyeongchang, South Korea - a move widely seen as a diplomatic breakthrough.

The two countries put off the exercises in an effort to make sure that the Winter Olympics won't be affected by tensions with North Korea.

"It is a provocative act of chilling the active efforts of [North Korea] and enthusiasm of the global community to defuse tension and create a peaceful environment", the Korean Central News Agency, a state-run mouthpiece, said.

Washington previously agreed to a request from Seoul to delay the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises - which always infuriate Pyongyang - until after the Pyeongchang Olympics and Paralympics in the South, to try to avoid tensions on the divided peninsula.

In a report submitted to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Forces Korea Commander Vincent Brooks said the United States will execute two major theater-level command post exercises and one theater-level field training exercise each year.

South Korean and USA defense chiefs will announce the dates when the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics ends on March 18, he said, and before April 1.

"The exercise was postponed according to the spirit of the Olympics", said Song.

In its report to the National Assembly, the Defense Ministry said that the US and South Korean militaries would hold the Key Resolve and Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises in order to further refine Seoul's "4D Operational Concept", which is to "detect, defend, disrupt and destroy" the North's missile inventory, including nuclear, chemical and biological warheads.

Moon said Saturday that it was too early to think about a meeting despite the Olympic-driven rapprochement with its neighbor, but added that "there are high hopes for a North-South summit".

Shin Jong-woo, a researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, a think tank, said: "Even though the joint military drills can be a hurdle for inter-Korean reconciliation, I believe they are necessary".

The Olympics have ushered in a welcome period of calm on the divided peninsula after months of saber rattling between Washington and Pyongyang over the North's nuclear weapons program.

However valuable the improvement in North-South ties and the peaceful environment may be, it said, "it is the principled stand and unshakable will of the army and people of the DPRK to counter provocation by prompt counterstrike".

Song denied suggestions that Seoul was reluctant to confirm the date due to fears of provoking Pyongyang, telling lawmakers that "we are not studying the pleasure of North Korea".

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