US President Donald Trump listens during a discussion for drug-free communities support programs, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug 29, 2018, in Washington. The White House said on Aug 29, 2018 that Trump believes he has a good relationship with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and there is no reason to be spending large amounts money now on war games with the Republic of Korea. (ALEX BRANDON / AP)
WASHINGTON - Days after canceling a planned visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) by his top diplomat citing insufficient progress in denuclearization talks, US President Donald Trump hailed his personal relationship with DPRK leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday and said there was no reason to resume war games with the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Trump's statement came a day after his defense secretary hinted that the drills, which the DPRK denounces as rehearsals for invasion, could resume.
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... the President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong-un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games
White House, US
Trump tweeted a White House statement in which he once again questioned China's role in helping to resolve the crisis over DPRK's development of nuclear weapons that threaten the United States.
The statement read that Trump believed the DPRK was under "tremendous pressure" from China, but Beijing was also supplying Pyongyang with "considerable aid," including fuel, fertilizer and commodities.
"This is not helpful!" the statement read.
"Nonetheless, the President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong-un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games," it added.
The ROK is also referred to as South Korea.
"Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses.
If he does, they will be far bigger than ever before."
Trump caught many American military planners off guard when he announced after an unprecedented summit with Kim on June 12 that the United States was suspending this summer's joint military drills with ROK.
The move was broadly criticized as a premature concession to the DPRK, which has resisted US efforts to persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons.
Pentagon: No change on US military posture regarding Korean Peninsula
On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis noted that the suspension of joint military drills with ROK as a good-faith gesture to DPRK was not open-ended.
On Wednesday, he reiterated that no decisions had been made about suspending any future exercises and stressed the importance of the US alliance with ROK.
The United States and ROK have internally agreed to carry out the joint military air drill "Vigilant Ace" in December and are discussing the size of the drill and the extent of the participation, ROK newspaper Joongang Ilbo reported on Thursday, citing multiple unnamed government sources.
In 2017, the week-long "Vigilant Ace" exercise involved a total of 230 US and ROK aircraft including stealth jets, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command website.
A Pentagon spokesman said, “Routine planning continues for major ROK-US exercises on the Peninsula in accordance with the normal exercise program planning cycle,” without elaborating.
Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the United States has not changed its military posture regarding the Korean Peninsula after the June 12 summit between Trump and Kim
Dana White, Pentagon's spokesperson, said the United States has not changed its military posture regarding the Korean Peninsula after the June 12 summit between Trump and Kim.
White tweeted that "our #military posture has not changed since the conclusion of the #Singapore summit."
"No decisions have been made about suspending any future exercises," she noted, adding that "the #DoD suspended three individual military exercises in order to provide space for our diplomats to negotiate the verifiable, irreversible and complete denuclearization of the #KoreanPeninsula."
"The US-#ROK alliance remains ironclad. Our 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 #KoreanPeninsula," White added.
ROK's defense ministry said that nothing has been decided about whether to hold "Vigilant Ace" this year.
At the June summit, the first meeting between a serving US president and a DPRK leader, Kim agreed in broad terms to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But DPRK has given no indication it is willing to give up its weapons unilaterally as the Trump administration has demanded.
On Friday, Trump called off a visit to DPRK by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just hours after Pompeo had announced it and publicly acknowledged for the first time thathis efforts to get Pyongyang to denuclearize had stalled.
The DPRK has been seeking relief from tough international sanctions and a formal conclusion to the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
But Washington says the DPRK must give up its nuclear weapons first.
"We believe that denuclearization has to take place before we get to other parts, and that's been a part of our policy," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert reiterated on Wednesday.
US officials say DPRK officials warned in a letter to Pompeo last week that talks with the United States risked falling apart. They now worry that Pyongyang may concentrate on trying to cut a separate deal with ROK and in doing so driving a wedge between the US-ROK alliance.
“They basically don’t think we’re doing enough,” a senior US official said on Wednesday, referring to the the DPRK.
He said that the tone of the letter was “if you’re not willing to give something, then don’t come.”
US intelligence and defense officials have repeatedly expressed deep doubts about DPRK's willingness to give up its nuclear weapons and had not expected Pompeo's trip to yield positive results.