Defense Secretary Mattis: No plan to pause military exercises for Winter Olympics in South Korea

The United States doesn’t plan to stop or reschedule military exercises near the Korean Peninsula when the Winter Olympics kick off in South Korea in February, Defense Secretary James Mattis said.

Pyeongchang, South Korea, located roughly 30 minutes from the North Korean border, is the host city for the games, making the Olympics the center of heightened security. The North Korean government has conducted a number of major missile and nuclear tests this year, including a missile launch last month and an underground test of a hydrogen bomb in September.

The U.S. routinely conducts military exercises in conjunction with the South Korean government to remain at the ready should North Korea ever follow through on its promise of war with its southern neighbor. North Korea sees the joint exercises as direct provocation and the country’s state-run media said a joint exercise between the U.S. and South Korea was pushing the country “to the brink of nuclear war.”

South Korea, on the other hand, is considering holding off on the military exercises to minimize the risk of an aggressive counter by the North Koreans. Mattis said the U.S. will only reschedule its exercises if it can’t coordinate with South Korea based on logistics, not diplomatic reasons.

“The rescheduling of exercises will be, as always, subject to both countries,” Mattis said in his year end press conference with reporters. “If a pause is, I’m pausing them for a period of time because of a diplomatic issue or something, no, I don’t anticipate that right now.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony is on February 9 and the games conclude on February 25.


Related: All the times U.S. President Donald Trump has shit-talked the North Korean government on Twitter.


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