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Trump’s decision to end military exercises in South Korea exposes conflicting interests in the region

Some US allies see this as undercutting their security in order to facilitate a deal with Pyongyang

Following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, US President Donald Trump announced that he intends to dial back on military exercises in South Korea, citing their financial toll as his logic for this apparent decision.

Clearly these exercises were considered provocative by the North Korean regime on the basis that the exercises are practically war scenarios envisioning the North as the enemy combattant.

In the midst of an environment which is presently geared towards a peace agreement and the total dismantling of the North Korean nuclear arsenal, and the guaranteed security of the North Korean regime, such exercises, conducted as a sort of preparation for a potential war, are not in concert with the spirit of peace and security on the peninsula, and are part of the reasoning why both China and Russia are together hailing this announcement as a move in the right direction.

The South Korean defense ministry and the Japanese government, on the other hand, are quite as thrilled about it, seeing the exercises as a necessary aspect of their own security, where prioritizing the security of the North would appear to eclipse the security concerns of Japan and South Korea, when viewed from that perspective.

International Business Times reports:

A comment made by President Donald Trump in the passing during a press conference, following the historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday, left South Korea’s department of defense disheveled.

Without any prior warning, Trump announced he will be suspending the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills and move forward with the plan to remove the 28,500 American troops stationed in Seoul.

“I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said, adding that it was “not part of the equation right now.” Next he said: “We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very provocative.”

The POTUS’ remarks came as a big surprise to South Korea, which said on Tuesday that Washington has not reached out to them to discuss halting the military drills.

“At this current point, there is a need to discern the exact meaning and intent of President Trump’s comments,” Seoul’s Defense Ministry said, Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.

However, at the same time, the executive office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in told their state media outlet Yonhap News that the suspension of joint military drills may be a necessary step in urging North Korea to enter denuclearization talks.

Also, the U.S. forces stationed at South Korea admitted that Department of Defense or the Indo-Pacific Command had given them “no updated guidance on the execution or cessation of training exercises” and hence will continue to coordinate with their Seoul counterparts and maintain their current positions until further notice.

Trump’s primary reason for suspending the war games was that it drained money, although he provided no estimate of the expenditure – a decision that has got mixed reactions from America’s political allies around the globe.

Japan’s Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera told reporters Wednesday that joint military exercises were “vital” for East Asian security and hence should not be suspended.

“We would like to seek an understanding of this between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea,” he said, Reuters reported.

On the other hand, Russia and China, who joined North Korea in criticizing the joint military drills in the past, welcomed Trump’s decision. In fact, the Chinese foreign ministry hinted before Trump’s press conference that it knew about the president’s decision in advance.

“Our suspension for suspension process is right and has been realized,” a spokesperson for the ministry stated, a BBC correspondent in China reported.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday.

“We welcome the negotiations of chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump,” the Ministry said in a statement. “We assess positively the statement of US president after the meeting saying that it was inappropriate to hold military exercises during the negotiations. We are convinced that the cessation of provocative actions is a necessary step towards decreasing tensions on the peninsula and establishing an atmosphere of trust there.”

In this manner, it would appear that as Trump aims at reducing his own military costs and seeking to show some good will towards the North Korean regime in the interest of achieving an accord with them while reducing possible issues of contention, he is simultaneously exposing areas of conflict between the interests of the various parties in the region as the process towards peace on the Korean peninsula treks on.

 

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