The Hankook Ilbo newspaper cited a government official in claiming that Seoul and Washington have delayed their so-called Key Resolve exercise until early March.
The date is being viewed as particularly significant because South Korean President Park Geun-hye suggested Monday that February’s Lunar New Year celebrations might be an opportunity to repeat last year’s meeting of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
But such is Pyongyang’s sensitivity to the atmosphere on the peninsula, that it cancelled an agreement to hold reunions in 2013.
North Korea has repeatedly blamed South Korean-U.S. military exercises for heightened tensions.
Last weekend, Washington rejected the North’s offer to suspend plans for a nuclear test in return for a halt to the drills – both the U.S. and South Korea insist that Pyongyang should not compare its much-maligned nuclear ambitions with their defensive exercises.
Nearly 30,000 American military personnel are stationed in the South, and Key Resolve is expected to bring together tens of thousands of troops from both sides.
The exercise “focuses on crisis management and command and control of alliance forces,” according to U.S. Forces Korea.
While the American side has not commented on the timing of Key Resolve, local news agency Yonhap also reported Tuesday that the drill would take place in March.
In response, Seoul defence ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok insisted that the schedule was set some time ago, and that the timing “has nothing to do with possible family reunions.”
Official statistics show that more than 70,000 relatives from South Korea - many of whom are now in their 80s - are still divided from loved ones in the North by the heavily-guarded border between the two countries.