Three weeks after the US and South Korea started their annual Foal Eagle joint military exercises - which had been delayed as a gesture of openness to North Korea during the Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang - South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Monday that the second phase of the annual military exercises, known as operation Key Resolve, will begin this week.
The news appeared to undercut the notion that South Korea was taking steps to deescalate tensions ahead of an in-person meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to be held at a town along the heavily fortified border between the two countries later this week, ahead of a meeting between President Trump and Kim set to take place some time before June, according to Trump.
The news comes after local media reported last night that South Korea would temporarily halt its infamous propaganda broadcasts, which blast anti-North Korean propaganda and K-Pop music from loudspeakers positioned along the border.
North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
That decision, in turn, followed a promise by North Korea to freeze its nuclear program and its missile tests ahead of the summit. Some observers, according to Yonhap, raised concerns about holding the military drills - which are meant to prepare soldiers to repel a North Korean attack - on the same day as the inter-Korean summit.
The North has historically denounced these drills as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North by US and South Korean forces.
According to the New York Times, the Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises have involved some 23,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Korean troops in recent years, and the scale this year is similar to past years.
Kim has reportedly said he understands why the military exercises must continue this year. Kim has said that "he could understand why the joint exercises must resume in April on the same scale as before," Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security adviser, said this month.