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South Korea-US joint drill to start April 1

A shot of the DMZ when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young-moo were there, October 2017. (DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

A postponed South Korea-US joint military exercise will resume April 1, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday, with its scope similar to that of previous years.

South Korea’s Defense Minster Song Young-moo and his US counterpart Jim Mattis decided to resume the annual computer-based Key Resolve exercise and other field training, the ministry added.

However the announcement did not mention the main field training exercise, Foal Eagle, which usually accompanies Key Resolve and involves maneuvers by US and South Korean forces in the West Sea. Speculation is rampant that Foal Eagle is halved in length from two months to one.

The two ministers agreed last month the resumption date will be announced between March 18 — the end of the Paralympic Games end — and April 1.

The North Korean military was notified of the resumption of the military exercise through the United Nations Command. The command repeated its usual assertion that the exercise is “defensive in nature.”

During his meeting with South Korean special envoys last week, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un said he would “understand” if the drills went ahead.

The announcement of the military drill date came amid a flurry of speculations over the scale and timeline of the exercises that have strained inter-Korean relations. North Korea has denounced the drills as preparation for war.

The allies’ militaries have stressed that the exercises would be “consistent” with previous ones, but the field drills are widely expected to be scaled down to set a peaceful mood for the inter-Korean and US-North Korea summits.

It is widely expected in Seoul that the field-training Foal Eagle exercise will be held on a “lower profile” without US strategic assets such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, which were deployed during last year’s exercises.

Last year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were considered to be the largest ever, involving US strategic assets, such as the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and F-35B stealth fighters.

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© 2018 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.