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Trump sees no need for U.S.-South Korea war games at this time

Kitco News

David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump believes he has a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and there is no reason to be spending large amounts money now on war games with South Korea, the White House said on Wednesday.

The statement comes a day after the U.S. defense secretary hinted that the drills could resume.

The White House, in a statement sent on Twitter by Trump, said the U.S. president believed North Korea was under “tremendous pressure” from China, but that Beijing was also supplying Pyongyang with “considerable aid,” including fuel, fertilizer and commodities.

“This is not helpful!” the statement said.

“Nonetheless, the President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” it added.

“Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses. If he does, they will be far bigger than ever before.”

The statement came after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, amid a breakdown in diplomacy with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, that the U.S. military has no plans yet to suspend any more major military exercises with South Korea.

Mattis said no decisions had been made about major exercises for next year, but noted that the suspension of drills this summer as a good-faith gesture was not open-ended.

Trump caught many American military planners off guard when he announced after his June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un that the United States was suspending this summer’s drills with South Korea.

The move was broadly criticized as a premature concession to North Korea, which has appeared to resist U.S. moves to persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons.

At the June summit, the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader, Kim agreed in broad terms to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But North Korea has given no indication it is willing to give up its weapons unilaterally as the Trump administration has demanded.

Trump last week called off a visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just hours after Pompeo had announced it and publicly acknowledged for the first time that his efforts to get Pyongyang to denuclearize had stalled.

Reporting by David Alexander and David Brunnstrom; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Bill Berkrot

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