Dem pushes for answers on cancelation of US-South Korean 'war games'

Dem pushes for answers on cancelation of US-South Korean 'war games'
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A Democratic congressman is seeking answers from Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Fears rise over Trump-Putin summit | McCain presses Trump to hold Putin 'accountable' for hacking | Pentagon does damage control after NATO meet Mattis doesn't mention Russia by name at meeting with Balkan officials: report Trump references ‘legitimate media and fake-news media’ at meeting with NATO leader MORE on President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE’s decision to cancel joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises while negotiations with North Korea are ongoing.

“As you know, exercises build readiness, expand interoperability and promote cooperation with the allies and partners,” Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDem lawmaker demands probe into defense contractor that held migrant children in vacant building Dems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (D-Ariz.) wrote Thursday in a letter to Mattis.

“In the Korean context, they are integral to coordination between the Republic of Korea, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Forces Japan and other allies and partners in the region that would be necessary to the national defense should war break out.”

Trump announced after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the United States will stop “war games” with South Korea “unless and until” negotiations with the North go poorly.

South Korea and Japan were apparently caught off guard by the announcement. The Pentagon has said Mattis was consulted, but has not offered clarification on what will be canceled.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he believes only two major exercises that take place in roughly March and August annually will be canceled. An unnamed U.S. official told Agence France-Presse on Thursday that “major military exercises have been suspended indefinitely on the Korean peninsula.”

In his letter, Gallego said it is “distressing” that Trump did not consult South Korea “or even, apparently, leadership at the Pentagon.”

He asked Mattis five questions, including whether he or the deputy Defense secretary were consulted ahead of time, whether he supports the cancelation and whether South Korea’s defense minister, foreign affairs minister or president where consulted before the decision was made.

Gallego also asked under what circumstances exercises will be rescheduled and whether it is “still your intention to proactively inform Congress of major changes to defense policy with respect to North Korea, South Korea and northeast Asian security concerns.” 

“I look forward to learning more about this decision from Secretary Mattis,” Gallego added in a statement, “so that we in Congress can take stock of the damage to our reputation, our alliances and our national security.”