Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Trump's Freeze of Korea Joint Exercises Catches Allies by Surprise

The US-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every year The US-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every year
Steven Clarke | 13 June, 2018, 18:29

Confusion reigns on Capitol Hill after one senator claimed US Vice President Mike Pence said military exercises in South Korea will continue, contrary to statements made by President Donald Trump in Singapore.

The historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un resulted in an understanding that Pyongyang would work toward denuclearization.

"We would like to seek an understanding of this between Japan, the US and South Korea", Japan's defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, said.

She said the global community was at the beginning of a very long process: "The detail is still to be worked through".

It has nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea and the two countries hold annual large-scale drills.

Those exercises include the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills scheduled for August.

"We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should", Trump said.

"But we believe it is necessary to come up with various measures to improve dialogue more smoothly", the Blue House said.

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While many support the close military co-operation with the U.S. as a key ally for the security it provides, critics say they are an unnecessary provocation and stand in the way of easing tensions with Pyongyang. The North has traditionally railed against the joint exercises and charged that they are practice for an invasion.

"Kim Jong Un is not to be trusted". Mattis' chief spokeswoman, Dana W. White, told reporters he was "in full alignment" with Trump and had been consulted in advance on all aspects of the Singapore talks. "We have no intention of changing our joint drills with the US", Itsunori Onodera said.

The U.S. had previously said it would never make such a move because the military exercises were part of its military alliance with South Korea and served as a deterrent to Kim Jong-un. Col. Jennifer Lovett, a spokeswoman at the USA military command in South Korea, said the command "has received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises".

Seoul accused him of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean navy ship and an island in 2010.

With both Trump and Kim now having exchanged invitations to each other's countries, the United States president sees a promising personal relationship with his North Korean counterpart as the key to further progress. The South Korean military seemed similarly surprised.

A top government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials here were still trying to figure out if Trump's reference to "war games" really meant all the drills, whose biggest maneuvers can include more than 300,000 US and South Korean soldiers and others.

The newspaper said the North Koreans could have multiple concerns in such a situation.

NBC reporter Kelly O'Donnell later added that the vice president's office was saying that Pence meant only that "routine training" with the South Korean military would continue, while the biannual military exercises would be canceled.

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