Xi asked Kim to demand halt to US-South Korea military drills

Elias Hubbard
June 19, 2018

A top South Korean diplomat pushed back Monday against critics of the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, asserting the "top down approach" by the two is "unprecedented", and those asking "where's the beef" should realize the joint statement in Singapore is just "the bone on which flesh should be added".

Officials in Washington and Seoul confirmed on Tuesday that planning for that drill had been suspended.

Both China and Russian Federation have in the aftermath of that meeting called for global sanctions against North Korea to be loosened, though the US has insisted that relief will only come when Pyongyang takes more substantive steps towards denuclearization.

The president has strongly suggested that the meeting ensured that North Korea was no longer a threat.

"Because American soldiers in South Korea typically serve there less than one year, even canceling some exercises will hurt readiness", said David Straub, a former senior USA diplomat in Seoul.

The visit will be Kim's third to China this year, following trips to Beijing and Dalian in March and May during which he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Amid dialogue with the North in 1992, Seoul and Washington canceled their "Team Spirit" exercise, which resumed the following year. "I think it's very provocative", he said.

There seems to be no special occasion for the congratulation - other than that it came a few days after Kim's meeting with US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

At a Senate hearing on Thursday, Trump's nominee to be ambassador to South Korea, the retired admiral Harry Harris, backed the idea of a "pause" in major military exercises.

Trump had vowed to prevent that happening and threatened North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

With tensions in East Asia escalating with Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests, Beijing has pressed for a simultaneous halt to North Korea's nuclear program and military maneuvers between the United States and South Korea since March a year ago.

The president's announcement appeared to catch U.S. defense officials by surprise, and his comments ran counter to long-held American arguments that the exercises are critical for effective operations with allies and are defensive in nature.

On Tuesday morning China woke to news that Trump directed the U.S. Trade Representative to prepare new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports, a move swiftly criticized by Beijing.

Trump said via Twitter on Sunday that it was his initiative to suspend military drills - a step North Korea has long sought.

The exercises typically comprise beach landings and repelling an invasion by the North, but have also featured "decapitation" strikes targeting senior figures in the regime. -North Korean summit was more advantageous to North Korea than the United States.

Mr Trump earlier presented a standard for the first-stage goal of the denuclearisation process, although South Korea's foreign minister would not clearly agree on the point. The Pentagon rarely uses the words "war game" for joint military drills and it is a phrase more often seen in North Korean state media.

His latest meeting with Xi will likely be framed as an opportunity for the North Korean leader to brief his Chinese counterpart on the results of the U.S.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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