S. Korea mulls talks with U.S. on rescheduling drills during Olympics: source

SEOUL, South Korea's military is mulling whether to consult with U.S. forces over a rescheduling of joint military drills slated for early next year that will overlap with the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, a government source said Thursday.

Seoul and Washington stage their military exercises annually around March, and North Korea has long denounced them as rehearsals for a northern invasion. The PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be held in South Korea from Feb. 9-25 and the Paralympics from March 9-18.

"The military is considering consulting with U.S. forces to make the Key Resolve training slated for March not overlap with the Olympics," said the source. "Consultations may be launched as early as this year."

Seoul is hoping that North Korea will take part in the PyeongChang Olympics, as it believes that the North's participation will help ease tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.

South Korea's presidential office said that nothing has been discussed or decided regarding whether to suspend the drills.

Another source also indicated a request by Gangwon Province, the host of the Olympics, may have been behind the proposal.

"As far as I know, (the regional government of) Gangwon Province sent an official letter to the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) early this month, asking them to review rescheduling next year's joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise," the source said. "After taking the letter, the ministry and the JCS are reviewing it."

For now, the ministry is preparing for the joint exercise to take place early next year as planned as nothing has been decided about rescheduling, a ministry official said.

On Nov. 13, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Olympic Truce, a resolution calling for the peaceful running of the upcoming Olympics in South Korea.

The U.N. has adopted the resolution every two years since 1993 to cease all hostile acts to ensure the safety of the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The militaries of South Korea and the U.S. conduct the two-month Foal Eagle combat training exercise and the two-week computer-based war game Key Resolve around March.

"The joint military drills are defensive in nature. It is not appropriate to view them as hostile acts," said an official at Seoul's unification ministry.

North Korea has refrained from its provocative acts for more than 60 days following its launch of an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15.

But Seoul is closely watching the North's movements as Pyongyang could protest against Washington's move to re-list the North as a state sponsor for terrorism.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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