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Pentagon to cancel August military exercise with South Korea: reports

Cadets participating in the cadet troop leadership training program with the 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Fires Brigade walk out to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to take a trip around Camp Casey, South Korea, Aug. 8, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Kim Han-byeol/Released)
June 14, 2018

The Pentagon is expected to cancel an August military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea, and the announcement could come on Thursday, officials said this week.

A senior administration official spoke to Fox News about the possible cancellation of Ulchi Freedom Guardian, and CNN was first to report the news.

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the United States will end its “war games” with South Korea, this after a much-anticipated meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore – the first time a sitting U.S. President has met with a North Korean leader.

However, joint U.S.-South Korea military drills will resume if North Korea stops its nuclear program negotiations with the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday from South Korea.

Trump “made very clear” the conditions for his actions, Pompeo said Wednesday, adding that the freeze “will no longer be in effect” if North Korea’s good-faith talks cease, and that Trump was “unambiguous” in communicating this to Kim Jong Un.

The “war games” are held annually with South Korea, and North Korea has often seen the military drills as practice for invasion of its country and war; the drills are a point of contention, and North Korea has lashed out in the past when drills take place. Last year, when North Korea was threatening to bomb Guam, the drills – and the rhetoric between the two nations – ramped up.

After their historic first meeting, Trump and Kim signed a Declaration of Friendship that, among other things, calls for the eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea also agreed to shut down one of its nuclear weapons testing sites.

On Tuesday, Trump said the military exercises were “very provocative” and “inappropriate,” given the new relationship that the U.S. is trying to forge with North Korea. Trump pointed out that not having the exercises will also save money.

South Korea was still trying to make sense of what Trump announced on Tuesday, an official said.

“We need to try to understand what President Trump said,” a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, while noting that South Korea understands that progress must be made with North Korea.

“We believe we need to pursue various measures to efficiently move the dialogue forward during serious ongoing talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to establish good relations between North Korea and the United States,” he said.

Trump and Kim met in Singapore on Tuesday morning there, first privately with only translators and later in a bilateral meeting with other officials.

After more than four hours of talks, Trump and Kim held a press conference, and the President announced that the two nations had come to an agreement, but he did not give specifics.

The President has “developed a very special bond” with Kim, he also said.