South Korea presidential adviser says U.S.-South Korea drills to start early April: Yonhap

FILE PHOTO: Chung-in Moon speaks on a "Crisis on the Peninsula: Implications for the U.S. - Korea Alliance" panel at the Asia Society in New York, U.S., June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea and the United States will start in early April a joint military exercise postponed until after the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, a South Korean presidential security adviser said according to Yonhap news agency.

Moon Chung-in, speaking at a seminar in Washington, said he is “aware the drills will begin in the first week of April”, reported Yonhap on Wednesday.

“However, if there are talks between the United States and North Korea before the drills there may be some kind of compromise,” Moon added, saying he hopes for dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington to begin.

The South Korean and U.S. militaries usually hold their Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises in March and April, which can involve as many as 17,000 U.S. troops and over 300,000 South Koreans.

Government officials in Seoul have said they are not against the exercises going on as planned, while South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-Moon said earlier this month he and his U.S. counterpart, Jim Mattis, would make an announcement on the drill plans between the end of the Winter Paralympics on March 18 and the start of April.

Mattis has said the postponement was due to logistical concerns.

Song, who attended a parliament session on Wednesday, declined to comment on Moon’s remarks when asked by lawmakers for details on the joint drill.

North Korea sees this regular drill, as well as other joint drills conducted by South Korea and the United States, as practice for war and has threatened it would not sit idle if the postponed exercise is held as planned.

Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Michael Perry