US, SKorea kick off military exercises

The anti-war protesters marched and held up banners near the US embassy in Seoul

The anti-war protesters marched and held up banners near the US embassy in Seoul

The United States and South Korea kicked off a low-key joint military drill Sunday as a diplomatic thaw over North Korea gathered pace.

The annual Foal Eagle drill - a series of field training exercises involving about 11,500 USA and 290,000 South Korean troops - began early yesterday, a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesman said.

The computer-simulated Key Resolve will be held for two weeks starting in mid-April.

More than 11,500 service members, including thousands based outside of Korea, plan to participate in the four-week Foal Eagle training, along with around 300,000 South Korean soldiers.

A Pentagon spokesman said in March that the two joint drills would involve about 23,700 USA troops and 300,000 South Korean forces.

Foal Eagle is due to last four weeks, half the duration of the drills a year ago.

This year, however, they waited until the end of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games here.

Local military sources said the U.S. Navy has chose to deploy the USS Wasp and USS Bonhomme Richard, both amphibious assault ships, for the Ssangyong exercise, adding that F-35B Lightning II aircraft will travel aboard the USS Wasp.

Military officials in Seoul have said the scale of the exercises would not go beyond those seen in previous years.

The drills comes as tensions between North and South Korea are easing.

Tension around Korean peninsula has reportedly shown signs of easing in recent weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has confirmed commitment to the inter-Korean talks and summits with USA and Japan.

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

The United States agreed to the change so as not to provoke North Korea, which sent athletes, artists and a government delegation to the Games. In a meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Kim expressed his willingness to discuss North Korea's potential de-nuclearization.

South Korean President Moon Jae In is scheduled to meet Kim in a rare summit on April 27 in the Peace House on the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom.

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