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Protesters stage a rally to denounce the annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on April 1, 2018.Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press

South Korea and the United States kicked off their annual joint military exercises on Sunday after they were delayed by about a month for the Winter Olympics and to help create conditions for a resumption of talks between North and South Korea.

The Foal Eagle field exercise, which usually involves combined ground, air, naval and special operations troops, will continue for a month. The computer-simulated Key Resolve will be held for two weeks starting in mid-April.

A Pentagon spokesman said in March the two joint drills would involve about 23,700 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean forces. Military officials in Seoul have said the scale of the exercises would not go beyond those seen in previous years.

The Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises are usually held every year around March but they were postponed this year until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which started in February and ended last month.

North Korea, which has traditionally accused both South Korea and the United States of practising invading the North during joint military drills, has remained quiet on the issue.

In March, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told a visiting South Korean delegation in Pyongyang that he “understands” the situation regarding the joint drills, according to South Korea’s National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, who had led the delegation.

The joint exercises come roughly a month ahead of an April 27 summit between the two Koreas, their first in more than a decade.

Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are widely expected to discuss denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and improvement of inter-Korean relations at the summit.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he may hold up a trade agreement recently reached with South Korea until after a deal is reached with North Korea on denuclearization.


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