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Pres. Moon urging U.S. to postpone joint military drills

Pres. Moon urging U.S. to postpone joint military drills

Posted December. 21, 2017 09:21,   

Updated December. 21, 2017 09:35

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“It will be of great help in opening a safe Olympics if North Korea halts its provocations until the end of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics,” said President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday during an interview with NBC, which is a broadcasting station that runs the Winter Olympics. “Then, South Korea and the United States can consider postponing the combined military drill that is being scheduled to be carried out during the Winter Olympics.” President Moon also added, “This is a problem that solely depends on North Korea (halting its nuclear and missile provocations).”

As the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills, which are initiated in early March every year, are overlapped with the Paralympic period of March 9 -18, adjusting the schedule has been expected. This can be done in an effort to alleviate tensions within the Korean Peninsula so as to guarantee the safety of the Olympic Games, which is a global festival as well as a national ambassador. At the U.N. General Assembly last month, the resolution for a ceasefire was adopted to halt hostile activities during the Olympic Games. This is not the first time to postpone a drill. Under the former Lee Myung-bak administration, an annual military drill called safeguarding the nation was postponed in 2010 for about 20 days to hold a safe G20 summit in Seoul.

It is highly likely that the United States will accept this suggestion. “We will make a timely announcement of the ally’s decision,” said the ROK-US Combined Forces Command. However, it does not necessarily seem urgent to announce it before the conclusion of the negotiation is disclosed. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “I am not aware,” which implies there is no ample discussion. Right now, the United States is oppressing North Korea to choose between dialogue and denuclearization. Against this backdrop, South Korea’s proposal to postpone military drills is breaking Washington’s momentum in oppressing Pyongyang. Moreover, this could be interpreted as dual-halt (North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocation and the halt of South Korea–U.S. military drill), which China has been claiming.

The problem is North Korea. It would be favorable if the postponement of the combined drill is coupled with North Korea’s participation in the Olympics and temporary suspension of its nuclear provocation. However, it is more probable that North Korea will use this situation to raise its ransom. Therefore, it must be made clear that the delay of the drills does not mean suspending or decreasing scope of the joint military drill but only an adjustment of schedules. Up until now, South Korea and the United States have decreased part of their drill as an effort to manage risks but North Korea has failed to live up to the expectations every time. This year, part of strategic asset deployment was refrained during the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian joint military exercises but the response we received from the North was missile provocations. We cannot alter legal military drills when there are illegal provocations.

It is also worth noticing that North Korea may take the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as an opportunity for provocations. It can destroy the festive atmosphere of the Olympic Gaames and aggravate crisis by provoking South Korea or committing cyber terror. The United States, which sets its timeline for solving North Korea’s nuclear issues in the following three months, will most likely to do all it can to change the North’s attitude. With the Olympic Games ahead, the situation of the Korean Peninsula may become even more flexible. This is the time for close cooperation between South Korea and the United States. If the South Korean government sincerely hopes to make the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as a stepping stone for securing peace, it should coordinate the “3-month action plan” with the United States.