U.S. nuclear-capable bombers will not participate in upcoming joint military exercises with South Korea, unidentified defense officials told Agence France-Presse.
North Korea in recent days has threatened serious repercussions if U.S. atomic-equipped forces participate in the annual drills on the Peninsula.
"Every year the scenario is slightly different," a U.S. defense official said, noting that the Pentagon traditionally selects which vessels will participate in the exercise based in part on Pyongyang's attitude.
When U.S. B-52 and B-2 bombers took part in the 2013 exercise, North Korea responded by promising to launch nuclear attacks on the South and mainland United States, going so far as to raise ballistic missiles for potential launch. The saber-rattling by both sides elicited heightened regional fears about a fresh war on the Korean Peninsula.
The Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises are to take place from the second half of February through April. Pyongyang -- which sees the military maneuvers as practice for an attack on North Korea -- has repeatedly demanded that the drills be canceled. Seoul and Washington have said there is no chance of that happening, the Associated Press reported.
"It is the strategic goal of the U.S. to invade the D.P.R.K.," the North Korean government-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a Monday editorial. "The U.S. is working hard to kick off large-scale joint military drills this year, too, for the purpose of mounting a preemptive nuclear attack upon the D.P.R.K."
An expert on North Korea, Yoo Ho-yeol, said he thinks the upcoming exercises will not cause the stir that last year's did.
"North Korea is maintaining its nuclear weapons program but hasn't launched any fresh provocation, so this year's drills would be more like the routine ones they conducted in previous years," the Korea University professor said.
The Kim Jong Un regime has offered to implement a truce with the South, effective Jan. 30, that would require both sides to cease incendiary actions and armed hostilities. North Korean Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong in a rare press briefing on Wednesday renewed the proposal, but said there was no prospect that his government would give up its nuclear-weapons work.
U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy Glyn Davies on Wednesday said Pyongyang "has been a no-show" on denuclearization matters, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Davies, who is in the middle of a trip through East Asia, told reporters in Seoul that aid-for-denuclearization negotiations would not be resumed until Pyongyang offers "concrete steps" of its commitment to ending its weapons work.