Mattis: 'No plans at this time to suspend' Korea war games

Mattis: 'No plans at this time to suspend' Korea war games
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Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday said that the Pentagon won’t suspend any future military exercises with South Korea.

“We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

He added that the Defense Department will work closely with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUN condemns Iran military parade attack President strikes softer tone on North Korea at United Nations Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria MORE to get “what he needs done ... to reinforce his effort, but at this time there is no discussion about further suspensions.”

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The Pentagon announced in June it would indefinitely suspend two training exercises with South Korea as part of the Trump administration's push to negotiate for the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

Mattis said at the time that the decision was contingent on future "good faith" negotiations and developments with North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The U.S. military has suspended two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the summer and early fall.

President Trump in suspending the exercises said the games were provocative in nature and also pointed to the operational cost of the exercises as reasons behind their suspension.

“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 at a news conference after his historic June summit with Kim in Singapore.

North Korea has long opposed the war games, calling them provocations.

Since the summit, however, relations between Washington and Pyongyang have soured.

Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction on Friday, saying, “I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea has returned what are believed to be the remains of fallen U.S. service members from the Korean War and hasn’t tested any missiles or nuclear devices since the Singapore meeting, but there have been no signs that Pyongyang is moving toward denuclearization.

Mattis said that smaller-scale exercises will continue, noting “there are ongoing exercises all the time on the peninsula. The reason you’ve not heard much about them is North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiations.”

Asked directly if the next major military exercise in spring, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, would take place, Mattis declined a definite answer.

“We have not made decisions on that at this time and we’ll do that in consultation with State.”

Tal Axelrod contributed.