US, ROK begin low-key army drills amid diplomatic thaw

BY APD NEWSApr 01,2018 at 11:04

The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) kicked off a low-key joint military drill Sunday amid a nascent peace mood on the Korean Peninsula.

The annual Foal Eagle drill – a series of field training exercises involving some 11,500 American and 290,000 ROK troops – began early Sunday, Seoul's defense ministry spokesman said.

The drill – which was delayed to avoid clashing with February's Winter Olympics held in PyeongChang, the ROK – will be held for a month in April, about half the time it usually lasts.

This year's drills feature fewer strategic weapons like a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Seoul said earlier.

The deployment of such powerful weapons at past drills has frequently drawn an angry response from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The two allies are also set to stage the annual Key Resolve drill – a tabletop exercise using mainly computer-based simulations – for the usual duration of two weeks beginning late April.

Pyongyang, which habitually slams the joint army drills between the ROK and the US as a rehearsal for invasion, has remained relatively quiet on the issue in recent weeks.

The Foal Eagle drill started the same day as a historic concert by ROK pop stars in Pyongyang, which will be staged late Sunday as a peace gesture ahead of this month's inter-Korea summit.

Eleven ROK acts – including popular K-pop girlband Red Velvet – are set perform in the DPRK capital – the first such concert for more than a decade.

The flurry of reconciliatory moves comes after the PyeongChang Winter Games, which the DPRK participated with athletes, cheerleaders and officials including DPRK leader Kim Jong Un's sister.

Kim, who last week met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on his first overseas trip as leader, also met Olympics chief Thomas Bach in Pyongyang on Saturday, thanking him for helping to bring about a "dramatic thawing" of tensions on the peninsula.

Kim is set to hold a summit with ROK President Moon Jae-in on April 27 at the border truce village of Panmunjom – the third time ever that any leaders of the two countries have met.

(AFP)

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