U.S. and South Korea Suspend Military Drills
SINGAPORE — The United States and South Korea have suspended another military exercise this year as part of an effort to give the continuing nuclear negotiations with North Korea an opportunity to work, Pentagon officials said on Friday.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, made the decision to delay the exercise, called Vigilant Ace, during a meeting in Singapore.
Dana White, the Pentagon press secretary, said the decision had been made “to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue.” She said Japan has been informed.
The decision to suspend the exercise came as the Trump administration continues efforts to reach an agreement meant to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Trump does not particularly like the drills, in part because he says they cost too much.
In June, without consulting the Pentagon, the president suspended major military exercises with South Korea after meeting with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Two months later, Mr. Trump delivered a rebuke to his defense secretary when Mr. Mattis opened the door to resuming the exercises.
Mr. Trump rejected that and said in a tweet that he saw “no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games.” He added that he could resume them “instantly” if he chose, and that if he did, the exercises would be “far bigger than ever before.”
Vigilant Ace largely involves air maneuvers. Last year’s exercises had more than 200 warplanes from the United States and South Korea. American military officials do not like suspending the exercises because, they say, delaying them can affect military readiness.
Mr. Mattis is in Singapore for a meeting of Southeast Asian defense ministers. While here, his meetings with Asian defense ministers have been shadowed by the continued fallout and speculation ignited by Mr. Trump on Sunday, when he questioned whether the defense chief would remain on the job and said that Mr. Mattis was “sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.”