Military drills to test inter-Korean detente amid reunions
SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea kicked off its annual joint military exercises with the United States on Monday, despite vocal opposition from North Korea which could threaten a recent upswing in cross-border ties.
The start of this year's drills overlaps with the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korea War - an event that has raised hopes of greater North-South cooperation.
Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunion finishes on Tuesday, but Seoul refused and - in a rare concession - the North allowed the family gathering to go ahead as scheduled.
The annual "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" drills - routinely condemned by North Korea as rehearsals for invasion - will last until April 18 and involve a combined total of 12,700 US troops and many more from South Korea.