The United States and South Korea will resume joint military drills next month, Seoul and Washington said on Tuesday, exercises that will go ahead despite US President Donald Trump's planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The drills, which were put on hold during the 2018 Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will start back up again on April 1, according to the Pentagon.
The South Korean official said consultations were underway over whether US strategic assets such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers or bombers would be deployed for the drills.
"In accordance with the previous practices, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission will observe the exercises to confirm their compliance with the armistice agreement", the statement added.
Photo South Korean Marines during joint exercises with the United States in April 2017.
"Our combined exercises are defence-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation", Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a separate statement.
The U.S. has about 28,500 troops permanently stationed in South Korea and is obligated by treaty to defend the South in the event it is attacked by the North.
The intra-Korean talks led to a visit this month by a South Korean delegation to Pyongyang for a meeting with the North Korean leader. The North has often responded to the drills with its own military actions, and previous year fired four ballistic missiles close to Japan.
The exercises, code-named Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, will involve some 23,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Korean troops.
The South Korean officials had told Trump that Kim voiced a commitment to the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" and pledged to refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests while talks were ongoing.
The schedule of the drills may have been adjusted because of inter-Korean talks planned for late April, and a possible summit between the North and the United States by the end of May.
Those announcements were made by the South Koreans, who have been orchestrating the diplomatic preparations and acting as the messenger between Washington and Pyongyang.
According to the South Korean envoy who met with Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean leader also offered to consider abandoning his nuclear weapons in exchange for USA security guarantees, and flagged a halt to all missile and nuclear tests while dialogue was under way. All these missile and nuclear tests clearly show that there some amount of insecurity that North feels, so Pyongyang must be allowed to say what it has to. And any inclination, however faint, that Kim has to scrap his nuclear weapons will dissipate.
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