29 Dec 2017 14:07

Russia suggests S. Korea should make moratorium on joint drills with U.S. open-ended - Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. Dec 29 (Interfax) - Moscow suggests that Seoul should not limit a moratorium on military exercises with Washington only to the period of the Olympic Games, but, rather, should make such a moratorium open-ended, Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large Oleg Burmistrov said in an interview with Interfax.

"We invite the president of South Korea to think about making such a referendum unlimited in time and extending it to the period even after the Olympic Games are over. In any case, we will welcome the quiet period both before and during the Olympics, during the Paralympic Games and over another 100 years to come," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.

Considering security during the Olympics as a top priority, Russia attaches equal importance to the security of the population of South Korea after the Games as well, he said.

"We would like to know exactly to what period the South Korean side suggests applying this moratorium: is it only for the period of the Olympic Games, but without applying to the Paralympic Games? Because if we look at the statistics of such drills over the past few years, they start in the beginning of March. And the Paralympic Games will end on March 18," Burmistrov said.

"Certainly, it is primarily an issue of bilateral allied relations between South Korea and the U.S., but if Seoul puts forth a proposal to the U.S. to place a moratorium on military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, we will welcome it in every possible way. Actually, it is the first and most sensitive stage of our roadmap on settling the situation on the Korean Peninsula," the diplomat said.

Routine South Korean-U.S. drills, which are held twice a year, namely in March-April and at the end of summer, are due to begin after the completion of the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Burmistrov said.

"In the first stage of our roadmap, we speak about a downscaling of large-scale drills at the very least, whereas the most optimal option would be the drills' cancelation as a highly important psychological and demonstrative step to show a readiness to start dialogue with North Korea. And, on the whole, this would help maintain normal life on the peninsula, which is increasingly plunging into confusion," the diplomat said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said earlier this month that the U.S. and South Korea could consider rescheduling their military drills, which have initially been set to take place at the same time as the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The Winter Olympic Games in South Korea's Pyeongchang will take place from February 9 to February 25, and the Paralympic Games from March 9 to March 18.