US And South Korea Set Date For Postponed Foal Eagle Military Drills

Large-scale military exercises involving the US and South Korea will go ahead on 1 April, the two countries have announced.

US And South Kore

The drills are a major point of contention on the Korean peninsula, as North Korea sees them as preparation for invasion.

They were due to begin in March but were postponed amid the diplomatic thaw surrounding the Winter Olympics.

The drills involve more than 300,000 personnel and huge military resourcing.

The announcement comes as an unprecedented diplomatic effort is under way to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Earlier this month US President Donald Trump unexpectedly accepted an invitation from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for face-to-face talks.

North Korea also said it was “committed” to giving up its nuclear weapons.

No further details have emerged – and there has been no direct comment from North Korea yet – but if the talks go ahead, it would be the first time a sitting US president has met a North Korean leader.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho was in Sweden earlier this week, a possible venue for the talks. It was widely assumed he was making preparations for the meeting.

‘Not a provocation’

The Foal Eagles and Key Resolve drills would, as originally scheduled, have clashed with the Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But Seoul agreed in January that they would be postponed.

On Tuesday, the defence ministry said they were expected to resume on 1 April and “at a scale similar to that of the previous years”.

This marked a significant shift in tone. North Korea has in the past described the exercises as “pouring gasoline on fire” and threatened serious retaliation.

North Korea has often tested missiles during the drills in a display of anger, but in the statement to Mr Trump it promised to refrain from doing so for the time being.

Foal Eagle/Key Resolve involve land, sea and air military drills and computer simulations. They have also involved practice drills for terror and chemical attacks in recent years.

The US and South Korea insist they are purely for defence purposes, and based out of a mutual defence agreement they signed in 1953.

They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.

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