S. Korea-U.S. joint military drills to begin on April 1st, last shorter than previous years

국방부 "한미연합훈련 4월 1일에 시작... 예년과 유사한 규모"
The annual joint military drills between Seoul and Washington -- postponed to honor the Olympic spirit -- will begin on April 1st.
But given their upcoming summits with North Korea,... the allies' drills won't be all that similar to years gone by.
Oh Jung-hee reports.
South Korean military authorities announced the schedule of the delayed Seoul-Washington joint military drills on Tuesday.

"The defense chiefs of South Korea and the U.S. agreed to resume the annual combined exercises including this year's Key Resolve drill,... the schedules of which were delayed considering the Olympics spirit. The exercises will begin on April 1st and be at a similar level to previous years."

This year's drills are shorter than in previous years.
The Key Resolve drill, a computerized simulation exercise, is to be held for about two weeks starting mid-April -- the same length as last year's.
But the Foal Eagle drill, which involves the deployment of troops and military equipment, will last four weeks starting April 1st -- half the length of last year's drill.
Seoul has notified Pyongyang of the drill schedule... through its western military communication line.

It's also highly likely... that the drills will be held at a lower intensity.
Whether U.S. strategic assets -- like nuclear-powered submarines or aircraft carriers -- participate in the exercises... generally determines how intense the drills will be.
South Korea's defense ministry didn't specify further on that matter, only saying that South Korea and the U.S. are currently discussing the matter.
But according to reports, the drills may not involve B-1B bombers or nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

This is viewed as an attempt to avoid irritating North Korea... ahead of inter-Korean talks and Washington-Pyongyang talks planned over the next two months.
Seoul's defense ministry stressed... that the drills are only to safeguard the nation's defense.
The Pentagon also underscored Seoul's stance,... by saying "the combined exercises are defense-oriented" as they have been for many decades.

"There is a possibility that both drills could overlap with the inter-Korean summit talks slated for late April... depending on the actual date of the summit... but South Korea's military authorities say... the drills will be held just as planned... regardless of the talks. Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News."

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