US military drills with South Korea to go ahead after Olympics

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games will run from Feb 9 to 25, 2018.
The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games will run from Feb 9 to 25, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - The United States and South Korea will conduct joint military drills as "normal" after the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang end in March, Defence Ministry spokesman Choi Hyun Soo said in a briefing on Thursday (Jan 25).

The announcement of the exercises, delayed from earlier this year to accommodate North Korea's participation in the Games, came hours after Pyongyang issued an appeal to "all Koreans" at home and abroad to increase exchanges and cooperation to facilitate unification.

In a message that read more like a sermon than a propaganda dispatch - sentences began with pleas such as "Let us" and "Let all Koreans" - the state-run Korean Central News Agency said the regime sought a "breakthrough for independent reunification" without the assistance of other nations.

While the regime called for peace on one hand, it is also preparing for a possible military parade on Feb 8, the day before the opening ceremony.

The drills are a major source of tensions on the peninsula, with North Korea using them to justify its push to develop nuclear weapons capable of striking the US mainland.

The South Korean Defence Ministry gave no details on the timing or nature of the exercises, but any goodwill may rapidly vanish if they go ahead in the weeks after the Games, and Pyongyang could restart its missile and nuclear provocations.

On Wednesday, the White House expressed concerns that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's regime is trying to take advantage of its participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics for its own propaganda and create cracks in the US alliance with South Korea.