Published: Mon, April 02, 2018
Medical | By Bryan Strickland

US, S Korea kick off low-key joint drills amid détente

US, S Korea kick off low-key joint drills amid détente

South Korea and the USA began on Sunday the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle that has been earlier postponed due to the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, media reported.

They will involve combined ground, air, naval, and special operations troops.

The computer-simulated Key Resolve will be held for two weeks starting in mid-April.

The Foal Eagle drill started the same day as a historic concert by South Korean pop stars in Pyongyang, which will be staged late Sunday as a peace gesture ahead of inter-Korea summit in March.

US President Donald Trump is expected to meet Kim before the end of May.

In announcing the dates last month, Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan insisted the exercises are "defense-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation".

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Ssangyong is expected to last until next Sunday, while the entire Foal Eagle drill will run for four weeks, down from last year's eight-week program, which kicked off on March 1.

The flurry of reconciliatory moves comes after the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which the North used to mount a charm offensive, sending athletes, cheerleaders and even leader Kim Jong Un's powerful sister as a delegate.

Tension on the flashpoint peninsula has shown signs of easing after the nuclear-armed North proposed summits with the South and their "imperialist enemy" the US.

But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly told visiting South Korean envoys that he understood the drills would be held as planned this year.

The decision to cut short the exercises seems to be aimed at maintaining the current climate warming relations with North Korea, which views the drills as a rehearsal for invading its territory, and amid plans for two historic summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the presidents of South Korea on April 27 and the United States in May. In a meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Kim expressed his willingness to discuss North Korea's potential de-nuclearization.

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