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US, South Korea Agree To Delay Joint Military Drills To Keep Peace On The Peninsula During Olympics

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A joint military exercise will be put on hold to preserve stability during the upcoming Winter Olympics, according to South Korean media reports.

In a phone call Thursday, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to delay the annual military drills, likely to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula during the Olympics, which will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.

North Korea tends to perceive the joint military exercises in the South as preparations for an invasion of the North.

The drills regularly provoke North Korea into conducting its own drills, which typically involve hostile military actions. In response to last year’s exercises, the North launched a salvo of Scud missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan, asserting that its forces were training to strike U.S. bases in Japan. Prior to that act of aggression, North Korea practiced striking a South Korean port.

Delaying the drills is likely to be perceived as an olive branch to North Korea, which expressed an interest in talking to South Korea earlier this week. The North and South spoke on the phone for the first time in two years Wednesday. During North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s address Monday, he also indicated that he intends to send a delegation to participate in the Olympics. The U.S. and South Korea have been discussing postponing the drills for weeks, basing the decision on North Korea’s behavior, which some believe is improving despite North Korea’s frequent provocations last year and threats to continue in the year ahead.

While the Trump administration’s views of bilateral talks between the North and the South vary greatly, the president has stated that talks are a “good thing.”

The drills are expected to be delayed only for the duration of the Winter Games.

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