US, South Korea suspend upcoming military exercises | News | DW | 19.06.2018
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US, South Korea suspend upcoming military exercises

Donald Trump appears to have come good on his promise to North Korea's Kim Jong Un by calling off an upcoming military drill with Seoul. Trump had called for an end to the "expensive and provocative war games."

The US and South Korea on Monday agreed to suspend upcoming joint military exercises on the back of President Donald Trump's historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

"South Korea and the United States have agreed to suspend all planning activities regarding the Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August," South Korea's defense ministry said in a statement.

The move was later confirmed by the Pentagon. Spokeswoman Dana White said the two countries' senior defense officials were set to meet later this week, including the US' Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

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However, White went on to say that department had made no decision on future military exercises beyond August. "We are still coordinating additional actions. No decisions on subsequent war games have been made," she said, adding that there would be "no impact on Pacific exercises outside of the Korean Peninsula."

Monday's announcement follows Trump's announcement last week after his summit with Kim that the US would suspend joint military exercises with the South "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should."

Cancelling the drills, Trump added, would save the US "a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it's very provocative."

The remarks reportedly threw Pentagon officials and ran counter to long-held US arguments that military drills are crucial to maintaining military partnerships with allies.

Trump's rejection of the military drills also appeared to reflect North Korea's assertion that they are "provocative" — assertions the US has for decades denied.

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Costly 'war games'?

Last year's Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises went on for 11 days in August and involved some 17,500 US and over 50,000 South Korean troops. However, those exercises mostly focused on computerized simulations as opposed to field exercises with live firearms, tanks or aircrafts. Also participating were nations that deployed troops during the 1950-53 Korean War, such as Australia, the UK, Canada and Colombia.

It was during last year's drills that North Korea also sought to flex its military muscles by firing an intermediate-range missile over Japan.

Other major US-South Korea drills, such as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle , took place earlier this spring. Historically, they have featured as many as 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean troops, and included live-fire drills with tanks, aircraft and warships.

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Following Trump's assertions that such exercises were very expensive, Pentagon officials are scrambling to estimate the total cost of various recent exercises. Mattis' office sent out a request on Wednesday seeking information on costs, but the Pentagon has yet to provide a public answer.

However, spending data on previous exercises put the costs in the low tens of millions of dollars, a relatively paltry sum in relation to the US government's $700 billion (€600 billion) military budget.

The announcement of the suspension of drills came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un prepared to embark on a two-day visit to Beijing.

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dm/kl (Reuters. AP, dpa, AFP)

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