US to stop 'provocative' war games with South Korea: Trump

A South Korean newspaper deliveryman collects newspapers in Seoul reporting the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on June 12, 2018.
A South Korean newspaper deliveryman collects newspapers in Seoul reporting the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on June 12, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

The United States will stop the "provocative" joint war games with South Korea, although it will not pull out any of its 32,000 troops stationed in the country for now, US President Donald Trump told a press conference yesterday after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The unexpected announcement, which apparently caught both Seoul and US military forces in South Korea by surprise, was part of the security assurances that Mr Trump gave Mr Kim in exchange for promises of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Mr Trump said: "We will stop the war games... unless and until we see the future negotiations are not going along like it should.

"We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, it is very provocative."

He later added: "We are negotiating a comprehensive and complete deal. It is inappropriate to have war games."

But the US President said his primary reason for pulling the plug on the joint exercises was that they were "tremendously expensive".

LONG-TERM GOAL

I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home.

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on reducing US troops in South Korea.

Bombers must be flown for over six hours from Guam to South Korea , he noted.

"That is a long time for these big, massive planes to be flying to South Korea to practise and drop bombs all over the place and go back to Guam. I know a lot about airplanes. Very expensive," he said.

"Number one, we save money. A lot. Number two, it is really something they very much ap-preciated."

Regional watchers note that if the US and North Korea make peace and the Korean War comes to a formal end, the US will have less of a reason to maintain its military presence in South Korea.

Yesterday, Mr Trump made clear that reducing US troops stationed in South Korea was not part of the equation for now, though he hoped that at some point it would be.

"I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea. I would like to be able to bring them back home," he said.

Hours after the announcement, a US Forces in Korea spokesman said that they had not received any direction to cease joint military drills.

"We will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance from the Department of Defence and/or Indo-Pacific Command," the spokesman said in a statement.

South Korea's Blue House presidential office likewise said that it needed to clarify Mr Trump's remarks.

"At this point, we need to find out the precise meaning or intentions of President Trump's remarks," said a spokesman.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'US to stop 'provocative' war games with South Korea: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe