SEOUL – South Korea and the United States are reviewing the possibility of postponing a joint annual military drill to avoid an escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February, the Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in an exclusive interview with US television channel NBC News, said the US was currently reviewing his suggestion to delay the drills.
A spokesperson for the South Korean presidential office had clarified that Moon made it clear during the interview that the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle maneuvers will be delayed only if North Korea, too, stopped its weapons tests.
He added the postponement is being considered only to ensure the Olympic and Paralympic Games are held safely and that there will be no other changes in the schedule of the drills that the two allies conduct every spring.
However, the South Korean Defense Ministry is yet to clarify its official stand on President Moon’s comments, a spokesperson told EFE.
China and Russia, too, have proposed the allies freeze the drills in exchange for Pyongyang halting its nuclear and missile program.
North Korea denounces the annual drills as a rehearsal to invade its territory and usually responds with missile launches.
Seoul, which has named the PyeongChang 2018 games the “Peace Games,” has been considering the delay for months to avoid any interruptions from North Korea.
The Foal Eagle combat maneuvers (two months) and the Key Resolve war games (10 days) usually start each year around March.
The PyeongChang games, held in the county that lies about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the militarized border separating the two Koreas, will be held from Feb. 9-25 while the Paralympic games will be held from March 9-18.