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Trump stuns observers with war games concession

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participate in a signing ceremony during a meeting on Sentosa Island, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

SINGAPORE, RAW – US President Donald Trump has made a stunning concession to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about halting military exercises, pulling a surprise at a summit that baffled allies, military officials and lawmakers from his own Republican Party.

At a news conference after the historic meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump announced he would halt what he called ‘very provocative’ and expensive regular military exercises that the United States holds with South Korea.

That was sure to rattle close allies South Korea and Japan. North Korea has long sought an end to the war games.

The two leaders promised in a joint statement after their meeting to work toward the ‘denuclearisation’ of the Korean Peninsula and the United States promised its Cold War foe security guarantees, but they offered few specifics.

Noting past North Korean promises to denuclearise, many analysts cast doubt on how effective Trump had been at obtaining Washington’s pre-summit goal of getting North Korea to undertake complete, verifiable and irreversible steps to scrap a nuclear arsenal that is advanced enough to threaten the United States.

Critics at home said the US president had given away too much at a meeting that gave international standing to Kim.

If implemented, the halting of the joint military exercises would be one of the most controversial moves to come from the summit. The drills help keep US forces at a state of readiness in one of the world’s most tense flashpoints.

‘We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money, plus I think it’s very provocative,’ Trump said.

His announcement was a surprise even to President Moon Jae-in’s government in Seoul, which worked in recent months to help bring about the summit.

Pentagon officials were not immediately able to provide any details about Trump’s remarks about suspending drills, something the military has long resisted.

A spokeswoman for US military forces in Korea said it had not received any direction to cease joint military drills.

One South Korean official said he initially thought Trump had misspoken.

‘I was shocked when he called the exercises ‘provocative,’ a very unlikely word to be used by a US president,’ the official said.

Current and former US defence officials expressed concern at the possibility that the United States would unilaterally halt military exercises without an explicit concession from North Korea that lowers the threat from Pyongyang.

The Republican chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said it was difficult to assess what had happened at the summit.

‘While I am glad the president and Kim Jong-un were able to meet, it is difficult to determine what of concrete nature has occurred,’ Corker said in a statement.

Speaking about the military exercises, Corker told Reuters: ‘I don’t know if that’s an agreement or an ad hoc statement that was made. It wasn’t in the agreement and sometimes things are said and walked back after talking to people at the Pentagon and other places.’

Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, called North Korea a ‘brutal regime’ and urged Trump to continue ‘maximum economic pressure’ as negotiations advance.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer faulted Trump’s agreement with Kim as short on details, saying the United States gave up ‘substantial leverage.’


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