UPDATED: Inhofe criticizes South Koreans as ‘appeasers’

UPDATED: Inhofe criticizes South Koreans as ‘appeasers’

Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDemocrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections Bottom Line Overnight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador MORE (R-Okla.) on Wednesday criticized the South Koreans as “appeasers” to North Korea, and did not discuss continuing a delay in joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

On Tuesday, asked by a reporter whether the South Koreans discussed with the delegation continuing to delay joint military exercises, a senior staffer for Inhofe said “there was a conversation about that.”

On Wednesday, however, an Inhofe spokeswoman said the earlier staff member had misspoken, and that the two sides had not discussed an additional delay.

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Joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which Pyongyang considers rehearsals for invasion, are typically a time of heightened tensions on the peninsula, with North Korea often conducting missile tests in response.

Pentagon and South Korean defense officials have pledged, though, that the exercises will still take place after the Paralympics in March.

Inhofe was critical of South Korea in speaking to U.S. reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s true that they’ve gotten soft,” Inhofe told reporters about South Korea. “They really didn’t feel that the threat was that great because they argued, as you pointed out, all the threatening equipment that we have and why would somebody ever take on the United States.”

Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a delegation on a trip last week that included stops in Hawaii, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Guam and Alaska.

Last month, the U.S. agreed to South Korea’s request to delay a pair of annual joint military exercises known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve in an effort to decrease tensions on the peninsula during the Winter Olympics.

The Winter Olympics saw a flurry of diplomatic activity between North and South Korea, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in meeting with the North’s delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies. After the meeting Sunday ahead of the closing ceremony, Moon’s office said Pyongyang expressed an interest in talking to the U.S.

Moon added on Monday that the U.S. needs to lower the bar for talks to happen.

On Tuesday, the Inhofe staffer said the South Koreans conveyed that same message in private.

“They do want us to lower the bar,” the staffer said. “I think that they felt like they were making really good progress with — they’re kind of in a honeymoon period with the Olympics right now, with North Korea coming and participating, charm offensive from North Korea. But at the end of the day the issue is all about the nuclear program and capabilities that they’re continuing to develop.”

The South Koreans were also “adamant” in their opposition to a so-called bloody nose strike, the staffer said.

“They are not a fan of the bloody nose strike, for obvious reasons, because it would mean a retaliatory strike on Seoul,” the staffer said.

The Trump administration has denied it is considering such a strategy, which would see the U.S. conducting a limited strike on North Korea to show Washington is serious about stopping the rogue state’s nuclear weapons development. The hope would be that North Korea gets the message and does not strike back.

This story was updated at 3:16 p.m. on Feb. 28.