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US, South Korea will delay joint military drills during Winter Olympics

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
January 04, 2018

President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to delay scheduled joint military exercises during the Winter Olympics next month, South Korea’s presidential office said on Thursday.

Associated Press (Twitter)

During a telephone conversation between Trump and Jae-in, the South Korean leader made the request to delay the drills, according to Reuters.

“I believe it would greatly help ensure the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games if you could express an intention to delay joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises during the Olympics in case the North does not make any more provocations,” Moon was quoted as telling Trump, Yonhap News Agency reported.

North Korea and Kim Jong Un dislike when South Korea and the U.S. hold military drills, or war games, because the North regime views it as a threat and an act of war.

Trump and Jae-in this week 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,” the White House confirmed in a press release, Yonhap reported.

During the telephone call, Trump said he “hoped inter-Korean talks would lead to good results and that he would send a high-level delegation including members of his family to the Winter Olympics,” Reuters reported.

“We will closely consult with the United States in the process of South-North Korea dialogue and we are confident that South-North Korea dialogue helps create an atmosphere for dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue,” Moon was quoted as saying, Yonhap reported.

On Wednesday, South Korea and North Korea restored a communication channel at the border village of Panmunjom.

North Korea reopened a once dormant telephone hotline that links directly to South Korea, and the two countries spoke for 20 minutes, this in advance of the North-South Korean meeting that it slated for next week to discuss the Winter Olympics.

The calls appeared to be only technical in nature, to make sure the hotline was up and running, although it was unclear what was discussed.

However, South Korea seemed very pleased with these first steps toward more communication.

The BBC reported that South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s press secretary said the opening of the hotline again is “very significant.”

“It creates an environment where communication will be possible at all times,” he said.

The red and green phone system is one of 33 direct lines that the two countries once used to communicate. The particular hotline that has been reopened is located in the village of Panmunjom, which is a border village in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.

North and South Korea haven’t had high-level talks in two years, since December 2015.

South Korea offered to hold talks with North Korea in order to discuss North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics. The talks would potentially include discussion about North Korean decentralization.

That offer for talks came just one day after Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day address, when he said he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul so that North Korean athletes could participate in the Winter Olympics.