SEOUL: South Korea and the United States on Sunday began their joint military drills as scheduled, according to defence officials, amid a reconciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks.
As per Yonhap news agency, over 11,500 service members, including those from outside South Korea are planning to participate, along with at least 300,000 South Korean troops in the four-week 'Foal Eagle' training.
The military drills generally begin either in late February or early March for around two months. However, due to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games held last month and earlier this month, it had to be postponed this time.
The duration of Foal Eagle training has been truncated to a month, which no major US strategic assets such as nuclear submarines and supercarriers to show up.
The defence authorities of both countries have underscored that there is no major change in the number of participating soldiers, programme and the 'intensity' of the military exercise.
Both South Korean and American Marines are conducting a massive Ssangyong (double dragon) amphibious landing drill in the Korean Peninsula up till April 8.
The landing drill involves the USS Wasp, the US Navy's 40,500-ton multipurpose amphibious assault ship, carrying F-35B stealth fighter aircraft and the USS Bonhomme Richard, which is another vessel of the same class. These ships are also known as "quasi-aircraft carriers."
Further, on April 23, the joint forces will also commence a two-week Key Resolve command post-war game, where over 12,000 US troops will be mobilised.
Earlier, North Korea had called on to the US and South Korea to suspend their frequent military deals for the sake of initiating a dialogue between the two Korean countries.
Pyongyang added that such bilateral military drills could be a 'source of catastrophe' for the Korean Peninsula.
However, the United Nations Command of the US has informed the North Korean military about the schedule of the drills while saying that it was a part of 'regular training' and not 'defensive' in nature.
The drills are expected to wrap up ahead of the third inter-Korean Summit scheduled to be held on April 27, in the border village of Panmunjom, located along the heavily guarded Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), which acts as the de facto border between the two Koreas.