Despite warnings that they could completely derail recent progress toward diplomacy and peace, the Pentagon announced on Monday that planned U.S.-South Korea military exercises on the Korean Peninsula will proceed in April.
The Pentagon's announcement comes in stark contrast to North Korea's promise earlier this month to halt all missile tests as diplomatic talks—including a possible in-person meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un—continue to gain momentum.
"The annual springtime drills between the United States and South Korea include two specific exercises: Foal Eagle and Key Resolve," the Washington Post reported on Monday. "The latter is a command-and-control exercise that uses a significant amount of computer simulation and involves about 12,200 U.S. troops and 10,000 South Koreans, Logan said. Foal Eagle includes actual field maneuvers, with about 11,500 U.S. troops and 290,000 South Koreans participating."
Though the U.S. portrays its joint military drills with South Korea as "defense-oriented," North Korea has denounced the exercises as simulations of "all-out war."
Last year, U.S.-South Korea "exercises included a variety of high-end U.S. weaponry, including the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and other Navy ships, and ground forces," according to the Post. "North Korea launched four ballistic missiles toward Japan in what was widely perceived as a response to the exercises." According to some reports, this year's exercises are expected to be slightly more "low-key."
In a letter to Trump earlier this month, a coalition of more than 200 peace groups and activists called on the White House to reciprocate North Korea's vow to cease missile tests by canceling or putting off military exercises with South Korea.
"The United States has a rare opportunity to help resolve longstanding tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and this chance must not be missed," Peace Action president Kevin Martin, one of the letter's signatories, said in a statement. "Further postponement or cancellation of the massive war exercises, which North Korea understandably loathes and fears, makes all the sense in the world at this time when South and North Korea are negotiating on so many crucial issues."