The US and South Korean military appear to be trying not to give North Korea an excuse for more provocations

STR/AFP/Getty ImagesNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
  • Journalists were reportedly barred from covering a joint US-South Korean military drill in South Korea.
  • The duration of some of the military exercises were reportedly scaled back, despite official statements that indicated otherwise.
  • This could be because so the US and South Korea can limit the optics of their military drills – which Pyongyang sees as a provocation – in light of the upcoming summits.

Amid the thaw in relations and upcoming summits between North Korea and the US, news coverage of US-South Korean joint exercises near the North Korean border have been unusually muted.

The two major annual drills – Foal Eagle and Key Resolve – kicked off on April 1, after being postponed for a month for the Winter Olympics in South Korea. One of the exercises, dubbed “Twin Dragon,” concluded on Sunday.

But the news coverage of Twin Dragon has been notably quiet. In previous years, images of drills and public statements from the US and South Korean military were published by both civilian journalists and military public affairs units.

The US announced that the encompassing Foal Eagle and Key Resolve drills will involve a total of 300,000 troops, mostly South Korean but with significant US backing.

But the same details for Twin Dragon were not provided to the public, and civilian news outlets were not allowed to provide coverage, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Some operations were canceled due to bad weather, but so far, images of the drills have been limited to troop movements in preparation for the drills, and not the drill itself.

It remains unclear whether civilian journalists and photographers will be allowed to provide coverage of other field-training exercises. US forces in South Korea did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Some news organisations, including Yonhap, have theorised that reporters may have been barred because authorities are “mindful of a nascent mood for peace,” in light of the upcoming summits.

Images of South Korean troops working in conjunction with US forces are typically viewed as a provocation in the North, and tend to prompt some kind of response from the regime.

Another indication that the US and South Korea may be encouraging a conciliatory mood can be seen in the drills themselves.

Despite the Pentagon’s assurance that the drills were going to be on the “same scale, scope, and duration as previous years,” Foal Eagle’s length was reportedly cut in half to one month.

With a projected end date of May, Foal Eagle will most likely conclude before the Trump-Kim summit in May or early June, lessening the chance of a provocative response from North Korea and derailing the summit.

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