If North Korea was listening, it heard a warning shot about those joint US-South Korean military exercises it says are so provocative.
As a sign of good faith following the Singapore Summit, President Trump suspended two major joint exercises this fall.
For its part, North Korea has returned what are believed to be remains of U.S. servicemen from the Korean War. It has also suspended nuclear tests and test-missile firings.
But there are no signs that the agreed-upon denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by Chairman Kim Jung-un is underway.
In June, following the summit with North Korea’s leader, Trump said:
We will stop the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiations is not going along like it should.
Last Friday in frustration over the slow pace of promised talks, Trump told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel his scheduled visit to Pyongyang for talks this week.
Then, at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said yes, those two major fall exercises were indeed suspended or canceled. But, he added, there are no plans to suspend any more.
In other words, as of now, next spring’s major maneuvers between forces of the two countries will proceed as scheduled. Mattis also reminded reporters:
There are ongoing (small unit) exercises all the time on the peninsula. The reason you’ve not heard much about them is North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiations.
Asked directly in June how long the joint exercise suspension would last, Mattis said it depended on “good faith” talks.
Asked Tuesday directly if the upcoming major military exercises next spring, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, would take place, Mattis declined to answer definitively.
“We have not made decisions on that at this time,” he said, “and we’ll do that in consultation with (the Department of) State.”
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