The United States and its East Asian ally South Korea on Sunday, April 1, resumed joint military drills that were halted during the Winter Olympic Games held in Pyeongchang in South Korea in February, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. Washington and Seoul agreed to halt the drills ahead of the games as a diplomatic gesture towards resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.
Nearly 12,000 American troops were to join around 3,00,000 South Korean soldiers during the joint exercises, described as the largest between the two allies. The operation is named Foal Eagle.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told his US counterpart Donald Trump in a phone call last month that delaying the joint exercises during the Winter Olympics in case there was no provocation from North Korea would help it achieve success, the media report said. The US leadership agreed to the point emphasising the need of de-conflicting the Olympics and the military exercises so that the American and South Korean forces could focus on the games' security.
North Korea of late is amid a process of reconciling with the outer world. After allowing its citizens to participate in the games, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded to an invitation by Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Beijing in the last week of March.
Officials of the two Koreas were also in talks and a summit was scheduled to be held at a border town on April 27, over a decade since the last such event took place. And then in May, Trump is likely to meet Kim in what is being seen as the meeting of the century.
Will military drills hit Trump-Kim talks?
It was, however, not clear whether the joint military drills would create fresh irritants ahead of the Trump-Kim talks to denuclearise North Korea. The United Nations, too, imposed fresh sanctions on Pyongyang recently to penalise it for evading sanctions over external trade.
The sanctions were backed by the US which said it was important to maintain the pressure on Pyongyang even if there were plans to hold direct talks with its leadership.
Over 12,000 US troops are likely to be mobilised later in April for more joint drills with South Korea. According to Pentagon, the scale of the April exercises was similar to those conducted in the past years.v