The Defence Minister of Japan has welcomed the resumption of US-South Korean military drills in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, which will add to already mounting pressure on North Korea for taking a serious note of its nuclear program. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera expressed hope that the exercises will be on the same scale as in previous years and hold great significance in order for proper and positive response by North Korea.
Foal Eagle will begin on Sunday and continue for 2 weeks with a massive participation of 24,000 US and 300,000 South Korean troops. The exercise will also include the computer-simulated Key Resolve Drill. The Wasp-Class ship USS Wasp will also join the military exercise which is the simulation of war on the Korean peninsula. It is expected USS Wasp will operate F-35Bs from its flight deck. F-35 is seen as a highly strategic asset by North Korea. Wasps are amphibious assault ships which have to capacity to deploy 31 military aircraft which includes MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters, AV-8B Harrier IIs, AH-1z Viper Helicopters etc. in addition to embarking 2200 assault troops.
The US has however given signals that the drill will scaled-down in the wake of upcoming high-profile summits beyond Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington in the coming months. It is unclear about the possible impact of the exercise on the proposed Inter-Korean Summit between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-Un. The Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises which were slated for January were delayed at the request of the Republic of Korea due to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in view of not causing a disruption in the North Korean plan to participate in the Games.