US, South Korea quietly begin war games ahead of summits with North

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South Korea and the U.S. began on Sunday the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle that has been earlier postponed due to the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, media reported.

An official from South Korea's Ministry of National Defense said that the annual Foal Eagle drill was launched with the start of the Ssangyong joint military exercises, participated in by USA and South Korean Marines and Navy.

The two allies will also carry out the two-weeks Key Resolve maneuvers, an exercise including computer-based simulations from April 23 with the participation of 12,200 USA soldiers.

Meanwhile, a total of nearly 300,000 South Korean servicemen and about 23,000 U.S. troops reportedly taking part in joint Foal Eagle maneuvers.

A Pentagon spokesman said in March that the two joint drills would involve about 23,700 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean forces.

The military exercises began as President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in are gearing up for back-to-back summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aimed at resolving the crisis over the communist state's nuclear weapons program.

During last year's Foal Eagle exercises, the North launched a number of ballistic missiles.

The news was also said to have been relayed by the South Korean military through a recently restored military hotline connecting the two countries along the west coast.

The United States agreed to the change so as not to provoke North Korea, which sent athletes, artists and a government delegation to the Games.

The drill - which was delayed to avoid clashing with February's Winter Olympics in the South - is to be held for a month, about half the time it usually lasts.

South Korean and U.S. Marines hold a joint landing exercise in this file photo.

But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly told visiting South Korean envoys that he understood the drills would be held as planned this year. In a meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Kim expressed his willingness to discuss North Korea's potential de-nuclearization.