Mattis seeks to clarify remarks on suspended military exercises

Mattis seeks to clarify remarks on suspended military exercises
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Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday sought to clarify statements on several suspended military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

“The Department of Defense suspended three individual military exercises in order to provide space for our diplomats to negotiate the verifiable, irreversible and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Mattis said in a statement released by the Pentagon.

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

The department made the announcement following Trump’s historic June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

The decision was contingent on future "good faith" negotiations and developments with North Korea, Mattis said at the time.

“Our military posture has not changed since the conclusion of the Singapore summit and no decisions have been made about suspending any future exercises,” Mattis said in the statement.

He adds that the U.S. and South Korean alliance “remains ironclad” and “forces maintain a high state of military readiness and vigilance in full support of a diplomatically-led effort to bring peace, prosperity and stability to the Korean Peninsula.”

Mattis a day prior told reporters that the Pentagon had “no plans at this time” to suspend any future military exercises with South Korea, but appeared to walk a fine line in answering questions on whether the suspended exercises could be restarted should talks with North Korea not go as planned.

“They've never been turned off,” Mattis said of all U.S. exercises on the peninsula. 

“We turned off several to make a good-faith effort. We are going to see how the negotiations go, and then we'll calculate the future, how we go forward.”

Mattis added that the Pentagon will work closely with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to get “what he needs done ... to reinforce his effort, but at this time there is no discussion about further suspensions.”