South Korea may scrap military exercises with US during 2018 Olympics for North’s sake
South Korea is considering scrapping a regular military exercise with US forces next year to minimise the risk of an aggressive North Korean reaction during the Winter Olympics in the South, the Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday.
North Korea denounces regular military exercises between South Korean and US forces as preparations to invade it, and it has at times conducted missile tests or taken other aggressive action in response.
The Winter Olympics will be held in South Korea from February 9 to 25, with the Paralympics on March 8 to 18.
Yonhap, citing an unidentified South Korean presidential office official, said the option of scrapping the exercise had been considered for “a very long time”.
The Blue House presidential office said in a statement no decision has been made on the exercise.
Officials at the defence ministry declined to comment.
The South Korean and US militaries usually hold military exercises in March and April called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which involve about 17,000 US troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.
South Korea is hopeful that North Korean participation in the games could help improve their fraught relations. The South has said any North Korean athletes who are eligible for the competition would be welcome.
A North Korean figure skating pair has qualified to compete but their participation has not been confirmed.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for the past year with North Korea developing its nuclear weapons and missiles in defiance of international condemnation and UN sanctions.
While North Korea has not conducted any tests over the past two months, it has repeatedly vowed to never give up the weapons it deems it needs to protect itself against what it sees as US aggression.