Pentagon: Mattis consulted on Trump move to halt US-South Korean war games
Defense Secretary James Mattis was consulted on, and not surprised by, President Trump’s announcement Tuesday that the Pentagon will hold off on military exercises with South Korea during ongoing negotiations with North Korea, CNN reported.
“He was not surprised. He was consulted. … The secretary is in full alignment with the president to meet his goal which is denuclearization of the peninsula,” Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White told CNN.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford also knew of Trump’s plan to suspend large-scale military exercises, according to multiple news reports.
Trump at the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that the Pentagon will halt joint military drills with South Korea during negotiations with Pyongyang.
The exercises, which the Pentagon has asserted are essential to military readiness, will stop “unless and until” negotiations go poorly, Trump said.
The Pentagon has yet to issue a statement on whether any exercises will be halted or scaled back, but so far officials have said no new guidance has been given. The next large-scale military exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, is still scheduled for the fall.
Mattis, who spoke to reporters at the Pentagon on Monday, did not mention the U.S.-South Korean military drills as being on the table at the summit. He only said that America will not pull any of its 28,5000 troops from the Korean peninsula
“Right now the U.S. and South Korea are not engaged [on troop withdrawal] and we’re the only ones who make up our mind on this,” Mattis said. “We’re not engaged in any reduction of U.S. forces talks, and I think we all wait until after this settles and we go forward.”
A Tuesday statement from White said the Pentagon “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.”
“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,” White said.
Reports have emerged that Pentagon officials have begun planning which military exercises should be scaled back or halted.
Pentagon officials are also awaiting a briefing from Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, who was in Singapore during the talks and is the Defense Department’s liaison with the State Department.
Mattis said that between the officials in Singapore and him, “there’s not a lot of communication back and forth with me because we’re holding … about the military factors. This has been diplomatically read all along and so, the diplomatic people are in charge.”