Some 300,000 South Korean servicemen and 11,500 US soldiers are slated to take part in this year's annual Foal Eagle joint military exercises, which started on April 1. The drills, which kicked off one month later than usual, due to the emerging thaw in relations between the two Koreas and their joint performance during the latest Winter Olympics, will last half of its usual time — four weeks instead of the regular eight.
This time no US nuclear-powered carriers or submarines will participate in the joint training. A reduced US military presence as well as duration of the exercises could allegedly signal a willingness to ease tensions with North Korea (DPRK) in the face of upcoming negotiations between the North and the South at the end of April and between the Pyongyang and Washington in May.
Pyongyang regularly condemns the joint drills of South Korea and the US, claiming them to be a "rehearsal" of invasion or attack on the North. This year was no exception. North Korea's official KCNA news agency earlier announced that the DPRK would "counter the US with its own mode of counteraction" and shifted the responsibility for any possible consequences on Washington. At present Pyongyang has yet to officially react to the news of the drills' start.