Pentagon: Planning for August ‘war game’ with South Korea suspended
The Pentagon has officially suspended planning for its August “war game” with South Korea, it announced Monday.
“Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the United States military has suspended all planning for this August’s defense ‘war game,’” chief Pentagon spokewoman Dana White said in a statement Monday.
The announcement comes about a week after President Trump first announced that the United States would be suspending joint military exercises with South Korea while negotiations with North Korea are ongoing.
“We will stop the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiations is not going along like it should,” Trump said during a news conference after his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, it is very provocative.”
The announcement appeared to catch South Korea, as well as Japan, off guard. The Pentagon insisted Defense Secretary James Mattis was consulted prior to Trump’s announcement.
The Pentagon has typically avoided describing the joint exercises as “war games” and has previously insisted they are not provocative because they are solely for defensive purposes.
The annual August exercises are known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian and typically last about 10 days. Last year’s exercise included 17,500 U.S. troops, about 3,000 of whom came from off the peninsula. Troops from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom also joined in.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian is largely a computer-simulated exercise meant to train to defend the South from an attack by the North.
In her statement Monday statement, White said no decision has been made on other future “war games.” The United States and South Korea also hold a large-scale exercise every March.
“We are still coordinating on additional actions,” she said. “There will be a meeting at the Pentagon later this week with the secretary of Defense, secretary of State and the National Security Advisor on this issue.”
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration expects exercises to be “on pause” while North Korea negotiations continue.
“At this point, as long as the North Koreans continue to act in good faith as we saw in Singapore, then we expect those things to be on pause,” she said at a press briefing.
No exercises in the Pacific outside of the Korean peninsula will be affected, White said. Twenty-six countries are scheduled to begin the annual Rim of the Pacific naval exercises June 27.
South Korea’s defense ministry also issued a statement saying the August exercise was canceled after “close coordination” with the United States.
“Following close cooperation, South Korea and the U.S. decided to suspend all planning activities for the [Ulchi Freedom Guardian], the defensive exercise slated for August,” the ministry said in a text message, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
“The South and the U.S. plan to continue consultations over additional measures,” the ministry added.