China wel­comes halt of joint ex­er­cises

South Korea caught off guard over Trump’s re­marks

The Korea Times - - NK-US SUMMIT - By Lee Min-hyung mh­lee@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

China is up­beat about U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s sur­prise pro­posal to sus­pend joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea, which it be­lieves will re­duce tension on the Korean Penin­sula.

“With a cool­ing down of mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, reduced U.S. mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion, and pos­si­bly an even­tual U.S. troop with­drawal (from South Korea), the Korean Penin­sula will com­pletely walk out of the shadow of the Cold War,” the Global Times, an English-lan­guage Chi­nese news­pa­per, re­ported Tues­day night after Trump ended a land­mark sum­mit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Bei­jing has sup­ported the with­drawal of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and a pos­si­ble sus­pen­sion of the mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, as the coun­try hopes to in­crease its grip on the penin­sula and stand up to the U.S. and other Asian coun­tries in trade and diplo­macy.

China car­ried out a year-long eco­nomic re­tal­i­a­tion against South Korea for the lat­ter’s de­ci­sion in 2016 to de­ploy a U.S. anti-mis­sile sys­tem here. China has since stepped up its com­plaints over the move, as Bei­jing views the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense (THAAD) sys­tem a potential mil­i­tary threat to the coun­try. China claimed that the anti-mis­siles sys­tem can mon­i­tor air­borne ob­jects in Chi- nese airspace.

But with Trump declar­ing an end to “war games” in South Korea on the side­lines of the June 12 sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore, China has been widely seen as the big­gest win­ner of the Trump-Kim meet­ing.

The Chi­nese me­dia out­let went on to sup­port Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion, call­ing it a “big step for­ward for the penin­sula.”

“(If the North suspends its nu­clear and mis­sile threats), there will be no grounds for the U.S. and South Korea to con­tinue large-scale mil­i­tary drills and for Wash­ing­ton to main­tain its mil­i­tary pres­ence in South Korea,” it added.

As of now, it re­mains to be seen whether Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion will be­come a re­al­ity, as South Korea’s de­fense min­istry is in a po­si­tion that the ex­act mean­ing of his re­marks should be checked.

Since tak­ing of­fice last year, Trump has called for the need to re­duce the num­ber of U.S. troops in South Korea, as he claimed that the South does not prop­erly pay main­te­nance costs for the USFK.

Dur­ing the post-sum­mit press con­fer­ence, Trump re­it­er­ated his will­ing­ness to com­pletely with­draw the USFK from the Korean Penin­sula some­time in the fu­ture in what some ex­perts say is a strat­egy to grab the up­per hand in the on­go­ing de­fense cost-shar­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with South Korea. Seoul and Wash­ing­ton are in talks to re­new the five-year de­fense cost-shar­ing agree­ment which ex­pires at the end of this year.

Fol­low­ing the re­marks from Trump, Ja­pan ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment.

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