South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said earlier in the day that the allies will announce the dates of the exercises once both the Olympics and Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, are over on March 18. The announcement will come before April, he added.
"The United States and the Republic of Korea deconflicted the start of our annual US-ROK joint exercises until after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics," Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, told Yonhap by email. "The focus during this time is ensuring the security and success of the Games. Additional information will be released after the Olympics."
The annual drills, which are usually conducted in February and March, were postponed this year in a bid to ease tensions on the peninsula during the Games. North Korea condemns the exercises as an invasion rehearsal and has used them as a pretext to launch provocations.
The Games have been billed as a "Peace Olympics" in South Korea after North Korea agreed to send a delegation of athletes, high-level officials and performance troupes following years of tensions over the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Critics, however, are wary that Pyongyang is reaching out to Seoul in the hope of easing international sanctions against the regime and driving a wedge in the South Korea-US alliance.(Yonhap)