The US will reportedly hold back aircraft carriers from joint military drills with South Korea as North Korea's stance softens and its leader Kim Jong Un seeks talks with both the US and South Korean president.
"While US aircraft carriers have taken part in joint South Korea-US exercises in the past, it has been decided that none will be coming for the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises," a US military official told Korea's Hankyoreh website on March 8, 2018.
"There is a possibility no nuclear submarines will be coming either," the source added.
In 2017, the US raised eyebrows by deploying three aircraft carriers and two nuclear submarines to Korea for different exercises. Both aircraft carriers and submarines have been viewed as high-end platforms the US would deploy in the event of an actual war.
A North Korean anti-aircraft missile drives through Pyongyang. (Photo by Stefan Krasowski via Flickr)
The carrier deployments also may have spooked North Korea, as it released a propaganda video if its missiles destroying a carrier and other key US weapons systems.
But Hankyoreh's source said the upcoming drills' lack of carriers had been planned long in advance, and didn't coincide with the recent thaw in North Korea relations.
Potentially, the lack of big, headline-making naval assets to the Korean Peninsula during the US and South Korea's regularly scheduled military drills could ease tensions as the sides move towards Kim's first-ever meetings with heads of state.
A Pentagon spokesperson decline to confirm what military assets would take part in the drills, but US officials have said that the US will continue its strategy of flexing its military muscle towards North Korea until Kim shows he's serious about giving up his nuclear ambitions.