Seoul, June 13
President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that the US would stop the “very provocative” and costly military drills with key ally South Korea after his historic summit here with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, widely seen as a concession to a jittery Pyongyang.
The US and South Korea are security allies, with about 30,000 American troops based in the country to defend it from its northern neighbour, which launched an invasion in 1950. They hold joint military exercises every year that anger North Korea which has long demanded an end to the drills and frequently responds with volatile steps of its own, leading to a spike in tensions.
“We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money,” Trump, also the commander-in-chief of the US military, told reporters, adding he had agreed to stop the “war games” because he considers them “very provocative”.
Trump’s declaration that the US would end joint military exercises with South Korea, fulfils a major demand by North Korea that has long claimed they are invasion rehearsals. He also said he wants to withdraw American troops stationed in South Korea, like he had promised during his election campaign.
The move appears to be based on the ‘freeze-for-freeze’ proposal mooted by China, under which North Korea would stop nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a halt to the military exercises.
South Korea’s Presidential Blue House said it needed to “find out the precise meaning or intentions” of Trump’s statement, while adding that it was willing to “explore various measures to help the talks move forward more smoothly”. A spokeswoman for US military forces in Korea, meanwhile, said they had not received any direction to cease joint military drills.
“USFK has received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises — to include this fall’s schedule Ulchi Freedom Guardian,” US Forces in Korea spokeswoman Lt Col Jennifer Lovett said. “In coordination with our ROK partners, we will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance.”