THE Pentagon announced on Monday that military exercises between US and South Korea that were scheduled for August are delayed indefinitely, following US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement to stop “war games” after his summit with North Korea.
“Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the United States military has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive ‘wargame’,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement.
The exercises were part of a defensive strategy to prepare troops for a possible attack from North Korea.
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While the August Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise has been suspended, White said no decision had been made on subsequent exercises. A meeting at the Pentagon between the Secretary of Defence, Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor has been convened for later in the week to discuss the issue, the statement said.
At a press conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last Tuesday, Trump announced that he was suspending the “provocative, inappropriate and expensive” military exercises with the South, predominantly due to cost.
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un before their bilateral meeting at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. Source: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
They will be suspended “unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should,” he told reporters in Singapore. He added that scrapping the drills will save the US “a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very provocative,” he said, using language that the Pentagon has in the past made efforts to avoid.
His announcement appeared to come as a surprise to both the US military and Seoul, and was not written in the official agreement signed between Trump and Kim on June 12.
The seemingly impromptu decision and the vague, non-committal wording of the final Singapore agreement had some concerned that Trump was retreating from the traditional alliances that were championed by his predecessors.
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Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera called the joint exercises and the US military presence in South Korea “vital” to East Asian security.
On Saturday, Trump attempted to reassure allies, saying on Twitter that the drills could “start up immediately if talks break down, which I hope will not happen!” while also claiming that the summit agreement “is being praised and celebrated all over Asia.”
Holding back the “war games” during the negotiations was my request because they are VERY EXPENSIVE and set a bad light during a good faith negotiation. Also, quite provocative. Can start up immediately if talks break down, which I hope will not happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2018
According to VOA, last year’s Ulchi Freedom Guardian went on for 11 days in August and involved about 17,500 US troops. Also participating were troops from nations that contributed forces during the 1950-53 Korean War, including Australia, Britain, Canada and Colombia.
North Korea has always criticised the “war games”, often retaliating with their own show of military strength.
During last year’s exercises, Pyongyang fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan in what its state media described as a “muscle-flexing” countermeasure to the drills.
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Source: US-South Korea military exercises officially suspended