US military exercises with South Korea ‘suspended indefinitely’
The US military has indefinitely suspended major joint exercises with South Korea, a senior American official has said, two days after President Donald Trump said following the historic summit with North Korea that the United States was stopping “very provocative” and expensive military exercises with South Korea to facilitate denuclearization negotiations with Pyongyang.
“Major military exercises have been suspended indefinitely on the Korean peninsula,” the official told AFP Thursday.
The United States and South Korea hold regular military drills to the fury of North Korea, which has long seen the drills as preparations to invade it.
US and South Korean forces regularly rehearse everything from beach landings to an invasion from the North, or even “decapitation” military strikes targeting the North Korean government.
Following maneuvers last year, North Korea condemned the drills and fired ballistic missiles over Japan.
Trump on Tuesday had said the US would halt “war games” with South Korea, but he did not make clear when the process would start.
“The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them,” Trump said. “Under the circumstances, that we’re negotiating… I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games.”
Following Tuesday’s summit, Trump and Kim signed a document described by the American leader as important and comprehensive.
The document says the US and North Korea “commit to establish [sic] new… relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”
Trump has sounded a triumphant tone since the Singapore summit, but his critics have pointed to the vague wording of the non-binding document, which Trump called a “deal”.
Speaking on Thursday during a regional tour to brief South Korean, Japanese and Chinese officials about the trump-Kim summit, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that peace efforts still face risks.
But Pompeo said the US remains committed to the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization of North Korea.
“We believe that Kim Jong-un understands the urgency… that we must do this quickly,” he said of the US effort to have North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program.
“We truly believe that we have a path forward after so many years that can bring peace,” Pompeo told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing before talks with President Xi Jinping.
In an interview broadcast on Wednesday, Trump said that a troop drawdown was “never discussed” during the historic summit with Kim in Singapore on Tuesday, apparently trying to calm the nerves of skeptics in America who blame the president of planning to give away too much to Kim in pursuit of a nuclear agreement.
But he stated that he would love to get American military out of the Korean peninsula.
“I would love to get the military out as soon as we can because it costs a lot of money and a lot of money for us,” Trump said.
North Korea has long demanded US troops be removed from the Korean peninsula as part of a nuclear deal, but the US has been at pains to stress the issue is not a bargaining chip.
The US has about 28,500 service members stationed in South Korea.