WASHINGTON — The annual full-scale wars games with combined U.S. and South Korean forces got underway on Monday — two months after their initial launch date but with a goal of equal size and intensity, Pentagon officials said.
The two exercises, called Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, will be “at a scale similar to that of the previous years,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
However, the time frame of the drills has been compressed to one month from the usual two. That means if the preliminary schedule is maintained, the field drills may conclude before a planned summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Additionally, the Pentagon is using a formula to explain the presence of certain high-profile parts of the U.S. arsenal, such as an aircraft carrier, that are usually part of the drills. The Pentagon said the absence of an extra bomber wing or flotilla is the result of already ingrained rotational scheduling and not related to the war games.
“In general many things are taken into account when planning exercises; deployment cycles, maintenance, and exercise objectives are the main driving factors in determining exercise participation,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told TMN. “As the exercise scenarios in question are classified it would be inappropriate to discuss our planning factors in greater detail.
“For security reasons, we do not provide details in advance concerning assets taking part in exercises,” he said.
The annual event usually begins in late February or early March each year and stretch over two months. The games were delayed this year to “deconflict” with the Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the subsequent Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Games ended March 18.
Foal Eagle are actual land, air and sea exercises that simulate military maneuvers that would be needed in the defense of South Korea and the larger region and — in theory — offensive action again possible foes. For example, an early element of this year’s Foal Eagle is a planned amphibious landing drill this week, the Pentagon said.
About 11,500 U.S. and 290,000 South Korean troops will participate in this year’s Foal Eagle, Pentagon officials said.
Key Resolve is a computer-based exercise designed to build off the results of Foal Eagle, Pentagon officials said. Key Resolve is scheduled to begin on April 23 and last about two weeks with roughly 12,200 U.S. and 10,000 South Korean forces engaged, Pentagon officials said.
“Our combined exercises are defense-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation,” Logan said in a statement to reporters last month. “These routine training exercises are not conducted in response to any provocations or the current political situation on the peninsula.”
The summit between Moon and Kim is being discussed for late April. A second possible summit between President Donald Trump and Kim may occur in May.
As previously reported, Chung Eui-Yong, South Korea’s national security adviser said their delegation was surprised that Kim did not push stopping the war games as a pre-condition to meeting Trump. Usually North Korean denounces the exercises as a military provocation.