U.S. Should Postpone Military Drills Against North Korea Until After the Olympics, South Korea's President Says

The United States should postpone its planned joint military exercises with South Korea until after the 2018 Winter Olympics in the hopes of stabilizing the region ahead of the games, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told NBC News on Tuesday.

Moon also wants North Korea to cease its missile tests and other provocations until the end of the Winter Olympics, in March 2018.

"If North Korea stops its provocations leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics, it will greatly help in holding a safe Olympics. Also, it will help in creating conducive atmosphere toward inter-Korean as well as U.S.-North Korean dialogue," Moon said.

"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," he added.

Ultimately, Moon believes that any possible stalemate rests upon North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"It all depends on how North Korea behaves," Moon said.

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South Korean President Moon Jae-In at a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on December 14. Moon wants the U.S. to postpone its military drills and North Korea to cease its missile tests and other provocations until the end of the Winter Olympics in March. REUTERS/Nicolas

For decades, the U.S. and South Korea have held joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in anticipation of a potential conflict with Pyongyang. Most recently, the two countries held Vigilant Ace, an annual military drill that featured more than 200 planes and about 12,000 U.S. military personnel.

The drill came a week after North Korea's latest test of its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities. Experts say the missile was the most powerful ever launched by Pyongyang, with some suggesting that it had enough range to reach the U.S. mainland.

North Korea sees the joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea as a mock invasion and has continuously called for their end. Earlier this year, China proposed that the North freeze its nuclear program in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea to halt the military exercises indefinitely. The U.S. quickly shot down the proposal, calling it "insulting."

"When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an [ICBM] pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won't," Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting in September.

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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un inspects artillery launchers ahead of a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), on April 25. KCNA

Moon was elected in May, following the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, in March. Moon ran on a platform of cooperation and dialogue with the North to quell tensions between the two.

But Moon isn't taking any chances leading up to the Olympics.

According to NBC, Seoul plans to deploy almost 5,000 troops during the games. The country has also "ratcheted up cybersecurity to ward off hacking attempts."

"There's no reason to be concerned about the safety and as the president of the Republic of Korea, I assure you that," Moon told NBC.

The Winter Olympics will take place in Pyeongchang between February 9 and February 15. The Winter Paralympics follow soon after, from March 8 to March 18.

U.S. Should Postpone Military Drills Against North Korea Until After the Olympics, South Korea's President Says | World