South Korean Army K1A1 and US Army M1A2 tanks fire live rounds during a US-South Korea joint live-fire military exercise, at a training field, near the demilitarized zone, separating the two Koreas in Pocheon, South Korea. Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
New military drills between South Korea and the US will be scaled back. Here tanks fire live rounds during a joint exercise, at a training field, near the demilitarized zone in April 2017. Photo: Reuters / Kim Hong-Ji

The US and South Korea will announce a new schedule for holding annual joint military exercises that were postponed in a bid to ease tensions with Pyongyang during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo reportedly said on Tuesday that a new schedule for the maneuvers will be announced soon after the games end in March.

“The schedule of the Korea-US joint military exercises will be jointly announced by the two countries after the Winter Paralympics come to an end on March 18,” and before April, Song is said to have told the National Assembly’s defense committee in Seoul.

Until then, the two countries will maintain a “neither confirm nor deny” posture on dates for the exercises, Song added, noting that the decision was made after consulting with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“Our governments’ shared position is that the delay of the Korea-US joint exercises is in keeping with the Olympic spirit,” Song said.

The annual US-South Korea military exercises have been a flash point of fiery North Korean criticism. Pyongyang has repeatedly demanded an end to the decades-long exercises amid efforts by the US and its allies to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis.

Analysts will closely monitor North Korea’s reaction if Seoul and Washington proceed with the exercises — which involve joint US and South Korean ground, air and naval operations.

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