On Tuesday, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense that Seoul and Washington would announce before April plans for a postponed military drill.
The two allies had agreed to postpone the drill until after the end of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Following the decision to delay the exercise, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un broke the two-year radio silence in a diplomatic overture that led to the reopening of communication channels between the two neighbors and the participation of North Korean athletes in the Winter Olympics. Additionally, the two delegations marched under a unity flag and a joint women’s hockey team was formed, which placed 8th on the overall standings.
When asked the exact date of the drill, South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo told parliament he and his U.S. counterpart, Jim Mattis, would make an announcement between 18 March, which is the date of the closing ceremony, and the start of April.
He further added that the decision to postpone the drill was inspired by the Olympic spirit, and they have agreed to continue doing so until the end of the Paralympics, and therefore they would neither confirm nor deny anything regarding what we would do after that until we announce it.
Fully aware of the pessimists’ view that the inter-Korean rapprochement was a direct result of the decision to postpone the exercise, the Defense Minister argued that it was not the case.
North Korea has renounced repeatedly the joint exercises as preparations to invade it, and it has at times conducted missile tests or taken other aggressive action in response. The North’s official KCNA news agency in a commentary said that a restart of the joint drill is an “act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been now seen on the Korean peninsula” and added that “it is a provocative act of chilling the active efforts of the [North Korea] and enthusiasm of the international community to defuse tension and create a peaceful environment”.