Pentagon Suspends SKorea Drills 06/19 06:17
The Pentagon on Monday formally suspended a major military exercise planned
for August with South Korea, a much-anticipated move stemming from President
Donald Trump's nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon on Monday formally suspended a major
military exercise planned for August with South Korea, a much-anticipated move
stemming from President Donald Trump's nuclear summit with North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un.
Dana White, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said planning for the
summer drills has stopped, but there have been no decisions made on any other
military exercises with South Korea. Military exercises with other countries in
the Pacific will continue.
Speaking at a news conference last Tuesday after his summit with Kim, Trump
abruptly announced that he was suspending military exercises with the South,
"unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it
should." He added that dumping the drills will save the U.S. "a tremendous
amount of money. Plus, I think it's very provocative."
His announcement appeared to catch U.S. defense officials by surprise, and
his comments ran counter to long-held American arguments that the exercises are
critical for effective operations with allies and are defensive in nature. The
Pentagon has for years flatly denied North Korean assertions that the exercises
But as the days went by, the U.S. and Seoul began discussions about
temporarily suspending the large Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises that usually
take place in August and possibly other joint drills while nuclear diplomacy
with North Korea continues. Seoul's Defense Ministry said Friday that Defense
Minister Song Young-moo held "deep" discussions about the drills with U.S.
Defense Secretary James Mattis in a telephone conversation Thursday evening.
Trump's decision to suspend the exercises, coupled with the vague joint
statement issued after his summit with Kim, have reinforced fears in South
Korea that the North is attempting to take advantage of a U.S. president who
appears to care less about the traditional alliance than his predecessors.
Last year's Ulchi Freedom Guardian went on for 11 days in August and
involved about 17,500 U.S. troops. Also participating were troops from nations
that contributed forces during the 1950-53 Korean War, including Australia,
Britain, Canada and Colombia.
The other major U.S. exercises with South Korea --- Key Resolve and Foal
Eagle --- took place earlier this spring. They historically include live-fire
drills with tanks, aircraft and warships and feature about 10,000 American and
200,000 Korean troops. The drills typically begin in March but were delayed a
bit because of the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.
North Korea has always reacted to the Ulchi exercises with belligerence and
often its own demonstrations of military capability.
During last year's Ulchi exercises, North Korea fired a powerful new
intermediate-range missile over Japan in what its state media described as a
"muscle-flexing" countermeasure to the drills.
Military readiness and lethality have been key priorities for Mattis, so it
is still not clear what, if any, smaller exercises may be conducted in the
region with South Korea or if more desktop drills may be planned to compensate
for the lack of larger, more coordinated events with various ships, aircraft
and thousands of troops.
Defense officials are also scrambling to pull together cost estimates for
the various exercises with the South to inform Trump's assertion that the
suspension will save an enormous amount of money. Mattis's office sent out a
request to military commands last Wednesday seeking information on costs, but
the Pentagon has yet to provide a public answer.