Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the US will not suspend its military exercises it is holding close by the Korean Peninsula just because of the Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to take place in South Korea this coming February.
Due to the past year’s escalation in missile tests coming from North Korea there is international worry that the safety of the Olympic games in February could be at stake if North Korea is provoked in any way.
US military exercises in the region have been known to annoy North Korea in the past. The regime often complains that US maneuvers are in preparation for an invasion, even though the US has explained that the exercises are just to improve the US’s military readiness. Despite the reassurances, North Korea’s state-run media said that joint exercises between South Korea and the US was provocative, pushing North Korea and the US “to the brink of nuclear war.”
South Korea is considering postponing or cancelling a planned military exercise due to commence in the spring, in order to reduce tension and/or conflict during the Olympics. However, Mattis said the US would not change its own plans due to diplomatic issues. Mattis did leave open the possibility that the exercises could be delayed for other reasons, such as the schedule of local holidays or the availability of equipment or ships.
“The rescheduling of exercises will be, as always, subject to both countries,” Mattis told 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.”
In September North Korea tested an hydrogen bomb underground, while all year long it has been firing missiles and conducting nuclear tests. Last month it fired its highest-flying missile so far. None of this seems to worry Mattis, who said that “Nothing impresses him” when he was asked if he was impressed by North Korea’s accomplishments in the development of nuclear capability.