“The military is considering consulting with the US forces to make the Key Resolve training slated for March not overlap with the Olympics,” said a South Korean presidential office official source in an interview with the South’s Yonhap news agency on Thursday, adding “Consultations may be launched as early as this year”, presstv.ir reported.
The source further said that the option had been considered for “a very long time.”
The Winter Olympics, known as PyeongChang 2018, are due to be held in South Korea on February 9-25 and the Winter Paralympics on March 8-18.
Seoul and Washington usually hold their two annual military drills, called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, in March and April, with some 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Korean soldiers participating in the exercises.
Pyongyang is highly critical of those exercises, considering them preparations to invade the North. In response, it has been developing its weapons programs.
Back in June, South Korean President Moon Jae-in invited its northern neighbor to participate in the upcoming games, hoping that it could help improve Seoul and Pyongyang’s highly strained relations.
A similar gesture in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul failed, and Pyongyang boycotted the Games.
Relations between North and South Koreas have been characterized by consistent tensions. The two countries fought a war in the early 1950s, and have been at odds ever since the war ended with a truce. In recent years, Seoul has expressed its deep concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
The North, currently under a raft of UN sanctions over its weapons programs, says it will continue those programs until Washington ends its hostility toward the country and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.
Pyongyang is concerned by the US’s permanent and heavy military presence in the region, including in the form of annual war games with South Korea.
Thousands of US soldiers are currently stationed in South Korea and Japan.