▶ Mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea can­celed.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG Dave Boyer con­trib­uted to this re­port

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said Tues­day they’ll stay out of Pres­i­dent Trump’s land­mark diplo­macy with Kim Jong-un — but they also em­pha­sized that, so far, mil­i­tary lead­ers have got­ten no for­mal in­struc­tions to fol­low through on the pres­i­dent’s words and im­me­di­ately can­cel joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with close ally South Korea.

Of­fi­cials said De­fense Sec­re­tary James N. Mat­tis has been kept in the loop as the White House opened pub­lic ne­go­ti­a­tions with the pre­vi­ously reclu­sive North Korean leader dur­ing a land­mark sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore on Mon­day night. They said Mr. Mat­tis was not caught off guard and had been con­sulted be­fore Mr. Trump shock­ingly de­clared the U.S. would cease the joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, which the pres­i­dent called “provoca­tive” and sug­gested would be a bar­rier to last­ing peace with Py­ongyang.

The ex­er­cises — two drills held in the spring, and an­other in the late sum­mer or early fall — have be­come a sta­ple of the Amer­i­can pres­ence on the Korean penin­sula and of­fer reg­u­lar re­as­sur­ances to South Korea, Ja­pan, and other al­lies in the re­gion that the U.S. is fully pre­pared to de­ter any pos­si­ble North Korean ag­gres­sion.

For now, U.S. mil­i­tary lead­ers say they’ve re­ceived no or­ders to can­cel an up­com­ing drill sched­uled for later this sum­mer, a mas­sive yearly ex­er­cise known as Ulchi Free­dom Guardian. Last year, the 10-day com­puter-sim­u­lated ex­er­cise in­volved more than 17,000 U.S. troops, in ad­di­tion to South Korean forces, ac­cord­ing to the De­fense Depart­ment.

Still, de­spite the un­cer­tainty around whether the ex­er­cise is still sched­uled, Pen­tagon spokesper­son Dana White told Reuters on Tues­day “there were no sur­prises” when Mr. Trump raised the is­sue fol­low­ing his meet­ing with Mr. Kim. Beyond that, the De­fense Depart­ment had lit­tle else to say, stick­ing to Mr. Mat­tis’ stated pol­icy of keep­ing the mil­i­tary out of diplo­matic ef­forts.

“The Depart­ment of De­fense wel­comes the pos­i­tive news com­ing out of the sum­mit and fully sup­ports the ongoing, diplo­mat­i­cally-led ef­forts with the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea,” Ms. White said in a state­ment later Tues­day. “Our al­liances re­main iron­clad, and en­sure peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion. The pres­i­den­tial sum­mit out­come is the first step along the path to the goal: com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula and a free and open Indo-Pa­cific.”

While Mr. Mat­tis ap­par­ently was in­formed that the pres­i­dent in­tended to raise the is­sue, it’s un­clear how far the news had trav­eled through the Pen­tagon be­fore Mr. Trump brought it up.

“It’s a very provoca­tive sit­u­a­tion,” the pres­i­dent said of the drills. “No. 1, we save money. No. 2, I think it’s some­thing they very much ap­pre­ci­ate [dur­ing the nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions].”

He said the U.S. will not be re­mov­ing any of its roughly 28,000 troops sta­tioned in South Korea in the near term, though he did say that was one of his ul­ti­mate goals.

“No, we’re not re­duc­ing any­thing,” he said. “I want to bring our soldiers back home. But that’s not part of the equa­tion right now. We will be stop­ping the war games, which will be sav­ing us a tremen­dous amount of money.”

U.S.-South Korean mil­i­tary ex­er­cises have been held reg­u­larly for decades and grew out of the two na­tions’ steady mil­i­tary part­ner­ship fol­low­ing the Korean War.

Mr. Trump did not give any spe­cific dol­lar fig­ures on how much the ex­er­cises cost, and the Pen­tagon typ­i­cally has not re­leased es­ti­mates.

In ad­di­tion to Ulchi Free­dom Guardian, the U.S. mil­i­tary also holds two con­cur­rent drills in the spring: Foal Ea­gle and Key Re­solve.

Foal Ea­gle in­volves more than 11,000 U.S. troops and nearly 300,000 South Korean forces, the Pen­tagon has said, and fo­cuses on field train­ing. Key Re­solve in­volves about 12,000 troops and 10,000 South Kore­ans and is geared more to­ward com­puter-sim­u­lated ef­forts.

While many law­mak­ers and some an­a­lysts were stunned Tues­day that Mr. Trump would of­fer to pull those ex­er­cises, spe­cial­ists say they could be shelved tem­po­rar­ily with lit­tle im­pact to Amer­i­can readi­ness on the Korean Penin­sula.

“This does not in any way di­min­ish our readi­ness of our ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the near term at all. We could do this in our sleep. We’ve done it for decades,” said re­tired Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, a se­nior fel­low and mil­i­tary ex­pert at De­fense Pri­or­i­ties, a think tank that ad­vo­cates for a more re­strained U.S. for­eign pol­icy.

Spe­cial­ists say that if the ex­er­cises are put on the ta­ble to gain con­ces­sions from Mr. Kim, the move makes sense. But per­ma­nently can­cel­ing such ex­er­cises — es­pe­cially if the U.S. gets no con­crete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion com­mit­ments in re­turn — could lead to prob­lems.

“It won’t hurt readi­ness if we don’t do ex­er­cises for a year, 18 months ... Any­thing past that would re­ally start to harm things,” said Henry J. Kazia­nis, di­rec­tor of de­fense stud­ies at the Cen­ter for the Na­tional In­ter­est.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.