US and South Korean forces reportedly plan to hold joint military exercises from March 31 through May, suggesting that they will overlap with a planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April.
The annual war games, postponed during February’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics, are a sore point with Pyongyang which considers them provocative. But South Korean envoys who met with Kim earlier this week say they informed the North’s leader that it wasn’t feasible to postpone the military drills. Kim is said to have replied that he understood that the exercises would take place in April on a similar scale to the past. But he stated that this wouldn’t derail the talks.
“North Korea made its position clear that it isn’t going to take the US-South Korean joint military exercises as a problem anymore,” chief envoy Chung Eui-yong reportedly said Wednesday during a meeting with Moon and political leaders. “Even if we hold the military exercises inter-Korean relations won’t collapse.”
The late April meeting between Kim and Moon at a border village along the Demilitarized Zone is yet to be scheduled. An actual start date for the joint drills, which are made up of more than one military exercise, also hasn’t been announced.
But NBC News quoted three US officials as saying that a maneuver known as Foal Eagle would begin on March 31 and run through May. The unidentified officials said a simultaneous computer-simulated drill known as Key Resolve would also be held from mid to late April.
US military newspaper Stars and Stripes quoted a South Korean official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying the exercises would occur in April.