File Photo: South Korean and U.S. soldiers take a position during an annual joint military landing exercise in Pohang, on South Korea's southeast coast, on March 12, 2016. (Xinhua/AFP)
WASHINGTON, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday that the joint exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle between the United States and South Korea will restart on April 1 "at a scale similar to that of the previous years."
The United Nations Command has notified Pyongyang on the schedule as well as "the defensive nature of the annual exercises," said the Pentagon in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo have agreed to resume the annual war games, the statement said.
Flag bearer of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Hwang Chung-gum (L) and flag bearer of South Korea Won Yun-jong march together under a unified Korean flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)
The military drills, which were postponed this year during the Winter Olympic and Paralympic period, come amid signs of a growing rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula.
Over a week ago, U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to meet top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un by May "to achieve permanent denuclearization," a big step forward following the announcement that the third inter-Korean summit is expected to be held in late April.
This picture provided by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Feb. 9, 2018 shows the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un attending the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Korean People's Army in Pyongyang, capital of the DPRK. (Xinhua/KCNA)
A high-level South Korean official, after briefing Trump on the outcome of a meeting with Kim earlier this month, told reporters in Washington that Kim said he "understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the United States must continue."
Amid detente on the peninsula, uncertainties remain whether the leaders of the DPRK and the United States can finally meet each other in May.
Analysts say that the two sides need to initiate working-level consultations at first. If their positions are too divergent, the face-to-face meeting may not be held as scheduled.