This week the US and South Korea agreed to suspend military exercises off the Korean Peninsula until after the Winter Olympic Games. The Pyeongchang Olympics is scheduled for February 9 to 25.
The annual joint exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, ran last year throughout March.
South Korea—US & Korean troops began annual Key Resolve & Foal Eagle exercises #NATOPartnershttps://t.co/FeJcgG4ssupic.twitter.com/DT2l7Dkc4Z
— US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) March 8, 2016
U.S. & South Korean troops are participating in exercise #FoalEagle. The annual event helps maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula. pic.twitter.com/XczjI2wSgk
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) March 31, 2017
The decision to suspend the exercises was reached on a phone call between President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday.
“The two leaders agreed to de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games,” a White House statement said.
The decision comes after the Koreas reopened a cross-border hotline on Wednesday that had been offline since 2016. North and South Korea also agreed to hold the first high level talks since 2015 to discuss “matters of mutual interest,” including North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics.
This latest thaw was initiated when, in a New Year’s speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was willing to have dialogue with South Korea and could send representatives to the upcoming Winter Olympics.
In that same speech, Kim added that North Korea would continue “mass producing” nuclear weapons, which prompted a response from Trump in which he mocked Kim by stating that the US nuclear button was “much bigger & more powerful”, and that his button “works”.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
This Thursday, President Trump took to Twitter to offer his analysis about the recent development.
With all of the failed “experts” weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total “might” against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
Trump and Kim Jong have traded bellicose comments in recent months, with both sides threatening to destroy the other.
In spite of the back and forth between the leaders, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the decision to suspend military exercises was reached for non-political reasons.
“For us, it’s a practical matter,” Mattis said to reporters, explaining that the Olympics are South Korea’s largest draw of international tourism. “We have at times changed the timelines on these [drills] for any number of reasons, so for us this is the normal give and take that we have.”
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