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: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE on President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser 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 GallegoOne year later: Puerto Rico battles with bureaucracy after Maria Grassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Arizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around 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.”

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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.”