UPDATE : 2018.9.21 FRI 09:12
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S. Korea, U.S to conduct joint military exercises 'normally' after Olympics: Seoul

South Korea and the United States plan to resume their delayed joint military exercises after the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the defense ministry said Friday.

"The exact date and size of the planned joint exercises cannot be disclosed, but they will be carried out after the close of the Olympics," Choi Hyun-soo, spokeswoman for the Ministry of National Defense, said in a press briefing.

Another ministry official added that the joint exercises will be business as usual, indicating that the size of the exercises will be the same as before.

Seoul and Washington have decided to put off their annual joint exercises -- Key Resolve and Foal Eagle -– which are usually held in early spring, until after the Olympics and Paralympics as a measure to reduce tensions during the games.

The allies are reportedly considering resuming the delayed joint exercises in early April after the Paralympics close on March 18.

Asked whether this year's joint exercises would be the same as previous drills, the spokeswoman responded affirmatively. Another ministry official, however, added that the exact scale has not been determined.

With regard to North Korea's suspected military parade for the army foundation anniversary on Feb. 8, Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the parade "is likely to be similar in pattern and scale to previous military parades."

The South Korean military is keeping tabs on various possibilities involving the military parade, he said, adding that full-range military readiness is in place in case of military provocation.

The weeks-long annual combined exercises customarily mobilize tens of thousands of American troops along with powerful U.S. military assets, such as fighter jets and warships, along with South Korea forces. North Korea has angrily protested the exercises as a rehearsal for invasion of the country and vowed to retaliate.

The delay of the exercises has been positively received by the international community. North Korea, China and Russia have proposed suspension of the South Korea-U.S. military exercises in return for North Korea ceasing military weapon tests, in a so-called freeze-for-freeze proposal, aimed at spurring a resumption of the two sides' talks on the North's nuclear weapons program.

As Seoul and Washington previously signalled the resumption of this year's exercises, the North demanded in mid-January that the exercises be abolished completely.

Kim Jung-mi  edt@koeapost.com

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