Delaying South Korea Exercises Was Practical Decision
A joint U.S-South Korean decision to postpone planned military exercises until after the 2018 Winter Olympics was more of a practical than political decision, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
The PyeongChang Olympics begin Friday, February 9 with the opening ceremony and a few events, and ends February 25. Joint military drills had been planned in South Korea during at least part of the international games but the two countries announced they would hold off.
“For us it's a practical matter, and we would call it de-conflicting,” Mattis said. The exercise would have required heavy vehicle traffic during “the biggest event in ROK in years in terms of international tourism,” he said, using the abbreviation of Republic of Korea.
Mattis flatly denied the decision had anything to do with reducing pressure on North Korea. “I wouldn’t read too much into it,” Mattis said. “To us this is the normal give and take that we have. Remember, we're doing this at the host country's invitation to this exercise.
Drills will likely to postponed until after the 2018 Winter Paralympics that following the Winter Olympics, but a firm date has not been set, Mattis said. The Paralympic Games will be held March 9 to 18 in PyeongChang.
A White House statement said the decision to delay the exercise was jointly made by President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in. “The United States and the Republic of Korea are committed to a safe and successful 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang,” the statement said. “President Trump told President Moon that the United States will send a high-level delegation to the Olympics. The two leaders agreed to de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games.”