WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump cited "an unusual and extraordinary threat" from North Korea's nuclear arsenal to extend sanctions on Pyongyang, despite touting the success of a historic summit earlier this month.
After flying back to Washington on June 13, boasting of success, the US leader tweeted: "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." "Sleep well tonight!" he added a day after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
But a presidential declaration sent to Congress on Friday struck a different note as it explained why the administration would keep in place tough economic restrictions first imposed by former president George W. Bush.
"The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States," it said.
"I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to North Korea," added the statement.
Though the notice is considered pro forma, the disparity in tone reflects the work that US officials concede remains to be done as negotiators thrash out the details of Pyongyang's disarmament.
At their summit, Messrs Kim and Trump signed a pledge "to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula", a stock phrase favoured by Pyongyang that stopped short of longstanding US demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way.
Critics have pointed to the vague wording of the non-binding summit document and raised fears that the summit could weaken the international coalition against the North's nuclear programme.
Also on Friday, the US and South Korea agreed to indefinitely suspend two exchange programme training exercises, to support diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, the Pentagon said.
The decision followed a meeting between Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
The move came after the two countries had previously announced the shelving of the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises slated for August, making good on a pledge by Mr Trump.
At a news conference after the meeting with Mr Kim in Singapore, Mr Trump announced that he would halt what he called "very provocative" and expensive regular military exercises that the US holds with South Korea.
"To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises," Pentagon spokesman Dana White said in a statement.
Two Korean Marine Exchange Programme (KMEP) training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months have now been shelved.
South Korea's defence ministry said: "This is a part of follow-up measures after the North Korea-USsummit and South Korea-North Korea summit (in April).
"There could be additional measures, should North Korea follow suit with productive cooperation."
North Korea had long sought to end the war games. Following drills last year, it fired ballistic missiles over Japan, triggering global alarm.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, played down the significance of suspending the KMEP training exercises, saying they were relatively minor.
US and South Korean forces have been training together for years, and routinely rehearse everything from beach landings to an invasion from the North, or even "decapitation" strikes targeting the North regime.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS