US-South Korea to hold annual military drills from April 1

US Air Force F-16 fighter jets land at the Osan US Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on March 20, 2018.

Washington: The Pentagon has announced that annual military drills between the US and South Korea will start from April 1, the media reported on Tuesday.

“US Secretary of Defence James N. Mattis and the South Korea Minister of National Defence, Song Young-moo, have agreed to resume the annual combined exercises including Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, which were de-conflicted with the schedule of the Olympic Games,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement issued late on Monday. 

“The exercises are expected to resume [on] April 1, at a scale similar to that of the previous years.”

Manning added: “The UN Command has notified the Korean People’s Army [North Korea’s army] on the schedule as well as the defensive nature of the annual exercises.”

This year’s Foal Eagle field training exercises will involve about 11,500 US forces and some 290,000 South Korean troops, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan.

The exercise was originally supposed to take place during the Winter Olympics, which were held last month in Pyeongchang, South Korea, CNN reported. 
However, US and South Korean officials opted to postpone it until after the Olympics and the Paralympics, which ended on Sunday.

South Korea has said the postponement was part of an effort to reduce tensions with North Korea and help ensure a successful Olympics, while US officials have maintained that the postponement was due to logistics and a need to “de-conflict” the exercise with the Olympic Games.

However, the joint drills will be cut short by a month, a Seoul defence ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, 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 told AFP.

Last year the drills were conducted for two months through March to April. 

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