US, S. Korea begin low-key army drills amid diplomatic thaw
SEOUL – Agence France-Presse
This year’s drills feature fewer strategic weapons like a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Seoul army said earlier. The deployment of such powerful weapons at past drills has frequently drawn an angry response from the North.
The two allies are also set to stage the annual Key Resolve drill -- a tabletop exercise using mainly computer-based simulations -- for the usual duration of two weeks beginning late April.
Pyongyang, which habitually slams the joint army drills between the South and the U.S. as a rehearsal for invasion, has remained relatively quiet on the issue in recent weeks.
The Foal Eagle drill started the same day as a historic concert by South Korean pop stars in Pyongyang, which are set to be staged late on April 1 as a peace gesture ahead of this month’s inter-Korea summit.
The flurry of reconciliatory moves comes after the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which the North used to mount a charm offensive, sending athletes, cheerleaders and even leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister as a delegate.
Kim, who last week met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on his first overseas trip as leader, also met Olympics chief Thomas Bach in Pyongyang on March 31, thanking him for helping to bring about a “dramatic thawing” of tensions on the peninsula.
Kim is set to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 at the border truce village of Panmunjom -- the third time ever that any leaders of the two rivals have met.