Trump Signals An End to U.S.-South Korean Military Exercises

On June 12th, a historic summit took place between Donald Trump and the leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un. Held in Singapore, the summit raised hopes of peace between the United States and North Korea. Any hope for peace between the two countries was slim just months ago based on the fiery threats made by both leaders. It seemed that both nations were headed right to war.

Now, it seems that things have turned around drastically for the United States and North Korea. After the summit, Trump and Kim signed a joint agreement that pledged for North Korea to work towards denuclearizing the North Korean Peninsula. Still, the media is wondering what was accomplished during the summit. There are reports that President Trump has agreed to stop joint military exercises with South Korea. If this is true, it will give Kim a considerable concession.

Every year since 1976, the United States has joined with South Korea to hold joint military exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. These drills represent the world’s most extensive computerized military training. They involve 17,500 United States troops and 50,000 South Korea troops. The purpose of the exercises is to help South Korea prepare for a North Korea attack. The drills help test the troops’ ability to operate effectively in South Korea.

The last military drill lasted for 11 days. The demonstration included about 50,000 South Korean forces and 17,500 United States troops. For many years, North Korea has demanded that the United States withdraw the troops from South Korea and end the military exercises. North Korea has held that this move is a condition for giving up its nuclear weapons.

But Trump says that U.S. military “is not drawing down at all.” President Trump has previously announced that he would like to stop the exercises and get the 28,500 U.S. military troops out of South Korea. Trumps says that the practices cost a lot of money. Right after the summit, Trump did say that the United States will be stopping the war games as they cost a lot of money. Although it is a very provocative move, Trump says that it will benefit the United States in the long run by saving a tremendous amount of money. South Korea views the presence of U.S. troops as integral to national security. South Korean leaders expressed doubt and nervousness about the drills being halted.

Despite the president’s call to bring the troops back and stop the joint exercises, withdrawing from the practices is not on the table right now. President Trump says that the United States “ is not drawing down at all.”

Trump said that putting an end to the drills was never discussed during the summit. The president did say that he is sure that Kim would like the exercises but that it was never on the table. However, it spite of Trump’s assertions that the drills were not ending, ABC News is reporting that the U.S. and South Korea have begun talking about ending the joint military exercises. So far, The next demonstration is set to take place in August. Long-range bombers will continue their training flights from Guam, as well. However, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters on Thursday said it might be necessary to discontinue the military exercises in the future since conversations among the United States, North and South Korea have been taking place. Moon did say that South Korea will continue with its unwavering cooperation with the United States on the two countries combined defense in the Korean Peninsula.

While these reports might be confusing, it’s important to remember that negotiations between the president and Chairman Kim did not end in Singapore. Every time Trump finds himself in front of a camera, he isn’t talking to American viewers — he’s talking to Kim Jong-Un. By signaling an end to joint military drills, and simultaneously preparing to ratchet them up again, the president is following Ronald Reagan’s “trust, but verify” strategy employed with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Hopefully, the end result will be the same.

~ Liberty Planet

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