- North Korean state media has not reported on US-South Korean military drills that began a week ago.
- The month-long joint military exercises usually agitate North Korea, which has responded with provocations in the past.
- As sanctions take hold, the silence may be part of Kim Jong Un’s hope to hold constructive talks with South Korea and the US in coming weeks.
North Korea has remained strangely silent as US-South Korean military drills got underway this month, an event that usually agitates the hermit state’s leader Kim Jong Un.
The latest joint military exercises, which were postponed until after the Winter Olympics, began on April 1. North Korea has a history of provocative actions during the drills but there has been no overt actions so far, and the country’s state media has made almost no mention of the drills.
The observation was made by Ankit Panda, a senior editor at The Diplomat.
“We’re a full week in the US-ROK Foal Eagle exercises and hardly a peep from North Korea in official media,” he tweeted.
Foal Eagle is the name given to a month-long joint field exercise which usually includes air, ground, naval and special operations troops. Another exercise, Key Resolve, a two week-long computer-simulated drill, will occur in mid-April.
The drills will involve around 300,000 South Korean forces and more than 23,000 US troops.
Business Insider conducted a search on KCNA Watch, a site that translates numerous state media publications in North Korea, and found essentially no articles explicitly referring to the drills.
This is a sharp departure from past rhetoric, where North Korea claimed the drills were the precursor to a military strike.
In 2014 in response to the drills, North Korea launched missiles towards a joint maritime border with South Korea and held its own drills. In January this year, North Korean propaganda site Uriminzokkiri called the drills “nothing but an attempt to bring disaster and misfortune to our people.”
“Inter-Korean talks and war drill can never be compatible,” the site said.
This new position seems to have stemmed from Kim Jong Un’s recent statement to South Korea that he “understands” the joint drills must occur.
As sanctions also begin to take their toll on the regime, the silence may be part of a renewed push by Kim to be seen as an equal negotiating partner ahead of talks with South Korea and the US in coming weeks.
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