US, S. Korean militaries to conduct joint drills despite detente with Pyongyang

US, S. Korean militaries to conduct joint drills despite detente with Pyongyang
The US and South Korea will go ahead with military drills off the Korean peninsula despite the “Peace Olympics” and the recent thaw in North-South relations, the South’s defense ministry said in a report to the National Assembly.

In the run-up to the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Seoul was able to convince Washington to delay the start of their annual winter/springtime joint military exercises until after the games. The temporary halt to the annual Foal Eagle/Key Resolve US-South Korea joint military exercises allowed North and South Korea to develop a dialogue that the South hopes will ease the mounting tension in the region.

On Tuesday, a day after Pyongyang warned against the resumption of the military drills, South Korea’s defense ministry announced that the allies will still hold the Key Resolve and Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises. Holding the drills this year, the S. Korean military said it will enhance the so-called 4D Operational Concept amid allies which aims “to detect, disrupt, destroy and defend against North Korean missile threats,” the ministry said in a report to the National Assembly, Yonhap reports.

No concrete schedule for the drills has yet been announced for 2018, and the report did not mention the fate of the Foal Eagle drills. A Key Resolve computer-simulated command post exercise was held March 8-23 last year. The 2017 Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise involving some 17,500 US service members took place August 21-31.

The North has long urged the allies to stop their joint military training, and on Monday reiterated its objection to war games on its borders. “Resuming the war exercises is a wild act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been seen on the Korean peninsula,” North Korean KCNA said in an official commentary.

N. Korea particularly accused Donald Trump’s administration of seeking “war” in the region, blaming the US for using the “most powerful weapon in the world” to coerce Pyongyang. “The Trump group has to ponder over the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its reckless saber-rattling, and make a responsible choice,” KCNA said.

“We are ready for dialogue and war.”

The latest statement comes amid the war of words and muscle flexing in the region between Pyongyang and Washington. As the US again threatens to pursue a military option to neutralize North Korea, Russia and China have been calling for calm. Moscow and China have consistently urged for a diplomatic solution to the crisis based on the ‘double freeze’ initiative. The simple Sino-Russian proposal, firmly rejected by Washington, seeks a simultaneous suspension of both nuclear tests by Pyongyang and the large-scale military exercises by Washington and Seoul.

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