South Korea’s leader is urging the United States to postpone joint military drills if North Korea pauses its nuclear and missile tests before the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The South’s President Moon Jae-in said he is willing to offer an olive branch if his northern neighbor ceases its provocations before the start of the games in South Korea’s Taebaek Mountains in February, NBC News reported.
“If North Korea stops its provocations leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics, it will greatly help in holding a safe Olympics,” Moon said in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday.
“Also, it will help in creating conducive atmosphere towards inter-Korean as well as U.S.-North Korean dialogue,” he added.
“It is possible for South Korea and the U.S. to review the possibility of postponing the drill I have made such suggestion to the U.S., and the U.S is currently reviewing. It all this depends on how North Korea behaves.”
South Korean officials stressed Wednesday that postponing the drills would be aimed at the South hosting a peaceful Winter Olympics, and not at ending the North Korean missile crisis, Reuters reported.
North Korea has fired 23 missiles since February, sparking international condemnation and sanctions. On Nov. 29, Pyongyang launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile it said was capable of striking the U.S. mainland, claiming to have achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state.
North Korea views the joint military drills as a rehearsal for invasion. Five days of drills that took place earlier this month involved 230 aircraft and about 12,000 service members from the U.S. and South Korean militaries.
Wartime scenarios played out included simulated precision strikes on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets. North Korean state media said the exercise pushed the Korean Peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war.”
North Korea said in 2015 that it would temporarily stop its nuclear tests if the U.S. and South Korea cancel the drills.
China and Russia have proposed an agreement that would see Pyongyang stop its nuclear and missile tests if the joint drills are halted.
Speaking in Ottawa in Canada on Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was not aware of any plans to “alter longstanding and scheduled and regular military exercises.”
The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will take place from Feb. 9- 25 and March 9 to 18.
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