US-S. Korea military drills to be cut short by a month

SEOUL • The delayed joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States will be cut short by a month, a Seoul Defence Ministry spokesman said yesterday, as the diplomatic thaw with North Korea intensifies.

"The Foal Eagle exercises will be held for a month in April due to a delay caused by the Olympics and as each military has its own schedule," the spokesman said.

Last year, the drills were conducted for two months through March to April. This year's exercises were delayed to avoid clashing with the Pyeongchang Winter Games in the South last month.

However, there would be no significant downsize in scale. The exercises, code-named Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, will involve some 23,000 US troops and more than 300,000 South Korean troops. The Key Resolve exercise is largely a computer-simulated war game, while Foal Eagle has typically involved large-scale ground, air, naval and special operations field exercises.

According to a senior South Korean envoy who made a rare visit to Pyongyang earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had made it clear he "understands" the need for the drills to go ahead. Such an acknowledgement is in stark contrast to the Kim regime's denunciations of the drills in the past.

The South Korean news media has speculated that this year's drills will be shortened, ending before Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In are scheduled to hold a summit meeting in late April.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'US-S. Korea military drills to be cut short by a month'. Print Edition | Subscribe