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(LEAD) Moon, Trump agree to delay joint military drills during PyeongChang Olympics

All News 23:35 January 04, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information, minor changes in paras 3-7)

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed Thursday to delay their countries' regular joint military exercises during the Winter Olympic Games to be held here next month.

The agreement came in a telephone conversation between the two leaders, according to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The tentative agreement came at a request from the South Korean leader.

"I believe it would greatly help ensure the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games if you could express an intention to delay joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises during the Olympics in case the North does not make any more provocations," Moon was quoted as telling Trump.

The U.S. president agreed, saying Moon may tell North Korea that there will be no military exercises during the Olympics.

In a press release, the White House confirmed the leaders agreed to "de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games."

The call between Moon and Trump came one day after the divided Koreas reopened their dialogue channel at the joint security area of Panmunjeom in a prelude to resuming government-level talks for the first time since December 2015.

Seoul proposed to Pyongyang last year holding military and Red Cross talks to discuss ways to ease tension, as well as humanitarian issues, including a possible resumption of reunions of separated families.

North Korea had remained completely silent until its leader Kim Jong-un said in his new year's message delivered at the start of this year that he was willing to send North Korean athletes to the Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea next month. He also suggested holding inter-Korean talks to arrange the proposed trip by a North Korean delegation of athletes and officials.

The Seoul government has proposed holding such discussions on Tuesday. The North has yet to offer an answer.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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