Trump Agreed to Cancel South Korea War Games Without Informing the Military

The US-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every year

As part of the inter-Korean thaw, the Games were attended by North Korea and there was concern the military exercise could jeopardise the rapprochement.

The end of the war games is well-timed for the first summit in what is expected to be a series of meetings, as it both has a large visible impact and allows for bigger deals to be built upon this in the months to come.

If Mattis was aware that Trump was going to announce a suspension of military exercises, he apparently did not share that information with the South Koreans or with the military organization most directly affected: U.S. Forces Korea.

Seoul accused him of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean navy ship and an island in 2010. The South Korean military seemed similarly surprised.

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.

Kim, Moon's spokesman, says Seoul is still trying to figure out the exact meaning and intent of Trump's comments.

The administration's argument is that the incremental approach used by past administrations has allowed North Korea to extract rewards and incentives from the USA, only to ultimately renege and refuse to give up its nukes.

Trump's statement was portrayed by critics as an unreciprocated concession.

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"It's really breathtaking", said Michael J. Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

On Wednesday Trump framed this as a win, saying the USA will now "save a fortune".

President Moon Jae-in spoke by phone with Mr Trump for 20 minutes late on Tuesday, but an official readout of the call made no mention of military exercises, according to Reuters.

On the other hand, Russian Federation and China, who joined North Korea in criticizing the joint military drills in the past, welcomed Trump's decision.

"It's going to be a long journey and there's a lot of work to be done yet, this is just the beginning of negotiation that could encompass a lot of very complex and hard issues between United States and North Korea that will include numerous major powers in that part of the world", said Dr Peter Brooks, Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation. "Instead, I think they should be continued, even on a smaller scale, for the sake of the alliance".

USFK also confirmed that the White House had not indicated any reduction in the number of troops in South Korea, consistent with Trump's promise not to remove any until far later in the process of normalizing relations with Pyongyang. Kim also reaffirmed a longstanding commitment by Pyongyang to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Klug reported from Singapore.

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