in the name of the games
Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed Thursday that the U.S. will temporarily suspend its joint military drills with South Korea until after the Olympic Games. The South Korean city of Pyeongchang is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics beginning next month, and the suspension will run through at least March 18, when the Paralympic Games conclude, Defense One's Aaron Mehta reports.
Mattis characterized the decision as a "practical" matter rather than a political one, Mehta reports, but the move is just the most recent in a string of developments on the Korean Peninsula. Earlier this week, President Trump taunted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Twitter about the size of his "nuclear button," insisting his is "much bigger and more powerful." The tweet came in response to a New Year's Day address by Kim.
NBC News notes that Kim in the past has said that North Korea would halt its nuclear development efforts if South Korea and the U.S. stopped the drills, which Pyongyang "sees as a rehearsal for an invasion," adding that Russia and China support the so-called "dual suspension" option.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that in addition to the drill cessation, he and Trump discussed potential bilateral talks between North and South Korea ahead of the Games. Earlier this week, the two countries re-opened a diplomatic hotline for direct communication, signaling a tentative thaw in relations.