WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Monday formally suspended a large military exercise planned for August, with South Korea, a long-awaited move, a result of President Donald Trump ‘ s nuclear summit, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Dana White, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Defence, said planning for the summer drilling is stopped, but there are no decisions to be taken at a different military exercises with South Korea. Military exercises with other countries in the Pacific will continue.
Speaking at a press conference last Tuesday after his summit with Kim, He suddenly announced that he was suspending the military exercises with the South, “unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along as it should.” He added that the dumping of the exercises will save the US “a huge amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very challenging.”
His announcement appeared to catch U.S. defense officials by surprise, and his comments ran counter to the long cherished American arguments that the exercises are crucial for effective operations with allies, and are defensive in nature. The Pentagon has for years flatly denied North Korean allegations that the exercises are “provocative.”
But as the days went by, the united states and Seoul began discussions about the temporary suspension of the large Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, which usually take place in August and, possibly, other joint exercises, while the nuclear diplomacy with North Korea. Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Friday that the Defence Minister Song Young-moo of “deep” discussions about the exercises with the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a phone call Thursday evening.
Trump ‘ s decision to suspend the exercises, in combination with the vague joint statement issued after his summit with Kim, reinforced by the fear in South Korea that the North is an attempt to take advantage of an AMERICAN president who seems 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 AMERICAN troops. Also participating were troops from the countries who contributed forces during the 1950-53 Korean War, including Australia, Britain, Canada, and Colombia.
The other major US exercises with South Korea Key Resolve and Foal Eagle took earlier this spring. They historically are live-fire exercises with tanks, planes and warships and have about 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean troops. The exercises usually start in March, but were delayed a bit because of the olympic Winter games in South Korea in February.
North Korea has always responded to the Ulchi exercises with fighting spirit and often his own demonstrations of military capabilities.
Last year’s Ulchi exercises, North Korea fired a powerful new medium-range rocket over Japan in what state media described as a “muscle-flexing” countermeasures to drilling.
Military readiness and lethality are the main priorities for Mattis, so it is still not clear what, if any, smaller exercises can be carried out in the region of South-Korea, or as a desktop drilling 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 is storing a huge amount of money. Mattis office sent a request for military commands of last Wednesday looking for information about the costs, but the Pentagon has yet to provide a public answer.