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Joint military drills to be postponed during Olympics

Posted January. 06, 2018 07:35,   

Updated January. 06, 2018 08:11


The South Korea - U.S. Combined Forces Command has officially announced postponement of joint military drills a day after the leaders of their countries agreed to not conduct joint exercises during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. As a result, the annual Foal Eagle/Key Resolve U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises will be postponed to late March or mid-April. “Detailed schedules are being discussed between South Korea and the United States and we will announce new schedules when fixed later,” a source in the command said Friday.

The delay comes in 26 years after the Team Sprit exercise was suspended in 1992, which was prompted by the adoption of the inter-Korean basic agreement. “The joint military drills is expected to be held in late March at the earliest, given timelines for return of the national athletic delegations (to their countries), maintenance and repair of drill sites and conclusion after the PyeongChang Olympic Games (February 9-25) and the Paralympic Games (March 9–18),” a South Korean military source said. Last year, the Key Resolve (computer-simulated command post exercise) was conducted on March 13–24, and the Foal Eagle (field training exercise) on March 1–April 30.

The joint landing drill (Ssangyong exercise) of the South Korea and U.S. marines, which is held in conjunction with the Foal Eagle in every March, will be also postponed. This marine exercise is carried out based on a scenario in which in the wake of armed conflict such as the North’s full-blown invasion into the South, the South Korean and U.S. marines secure beachheads in east and west coast areas before occupying Pyongyang in the shortest period of time. “The South Korean and U.S. military authorities are adjusting specific schedules (regarding the drill’s postponement),” a South Korean military source said.

Some raise the possibility that the duration of drills could be shortened. “By taking into account preparation of other drills and operational schedules of military units, we are considering reducing the duration of drills,” a military source said. The source added there is a possibility that the size of U.S. strategic weapons to be mobilized, including strategic bombers and nuclear aircraft carriers, and the number of their engagement could be reduced. In last year’s drills, a large number of nuclear aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and B-1B strategic bombers were deployed for the drills to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

“The South Korean military’s own joint drills and planned drills of its Army, Navy and Air Force will be conducted as scheduled (even during the Olympics period) as part of efforts to secure thorough defense readiness,” a military source said. He said the South Korea and U.S. militaries have never discussed adjustment of schedules for their joint military drills to be conducted in the second half, including the Ulchi Freedom Guardian.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com